Reflections on my mother, origins of ADD, being non-binary, and personal growth

Being sexualised by a parent is not a good thing; but I have taken it and made it mine

“We spend our first 20 years living with our parents and the rest of our lives trying to get over them.”

Woody Allen

We know from Gabor Maté’s book, Scattered Minds, reviewed here, that the underlying trait for ADD is one of heightened sensitivity to the world around us.  With that can come positive things like creativity and energy, hyperfocus, but also negative things like arrested emotional development, an inability to focus or get things done.

Although someone may be born with the genetic makeup that suggests ADD will arise, it only happens when the environmental conditions are “right”.  Chief among these is the bond that should form between Mother and child immediately after birth, during breast feeding, and during the early developmental years, up to about the age of 6.  This begins with a sense of smell, but goes on to the sound of the heartbeat in her chest, and the warmth and security that can only come from suckling.  The baby is quite literally dependent on the Mother for everything, and gets it.

This also includes gaze, that a Mother pays attention to Her baby as it looks into Her eyes.  This is a kind of communication, a reassurance to the child that She is there, that the baby is safe.

There are many ways that this can go wrong, and with the ADD child, the result is ADD and a lifelong need to get what was not given during those crucial early years of life.  Divorce is just such a phenomenon.

Divorce is not just an event, a moment of separation.  It is also often many years of bickering and stress that lead up to it.  My father was a belittling, small-hearted man who had somehow married a Swan.  He cheated on her, was physically domineering.  As an aside, I am the only one of his children he never struck—manhandled yes, but struck no, not once.  As for my siblings…

A friend of mine described my birth as one of those babies intended to save the marriage.  That might have given both parents guilt when it failed—or shame.  When I was born my mother was in a state of extreme marital stress.  Social shame for divorce in a conservative family, money issues, fear of raising so many children on her own, and a jerk of an ex-husband who constantly tried to weasel out of miserly alimony payments.

She had no breast milk for me.  Not even a drop.  I missed out on this important bond with her, and her stress made it difficult for her to connect.  I think she felt guilty all her life about it, and one of the consequences was that she tried to baby me way beyond the age of normal development, as if she was trying to hang onto an innocence and love we never had, or to give me something she knew she had never given me.  

While that sounds lovely, it also meant that I was still wearing baby clothes at the age of 5.  I still had a pacifier, and she encouraged my continued use of a baby blanket, which I carried everywhere.  It was a little inconvenient at times to want to play with friends in jeans and t-shirts when I was still wearing home-sewed romper suits.  Part of me railed and rebelled against this, and another part was desperate for Mommy’s love.

Some of my most blissful memories of her were of being tucked into bed and “kissed 100 times”, all over me. Being both taut but also cuddled and tucked in remains a powerful emotional trigger.  Funnily enough, when a woman pushes my hair behind my ear, I get a very similar feeling.

Because my mother had so much to cope with, it was much easier if I was just passive and controllable, like a doll, obedient.  This was difficult for me as I started school and became a source of friction with us that lasted all the way until her passing.

She also made no secret of her wish that I had been a girl.  I believe that she felt that I would have more in common with her and be less rebellious if I had been.  She told me that often, wistfully.  And indeed, I rather looked like one.  Even in high school I still looked like one—it was only somewhere along the line in college that my body and features become formally male—a separate issue for me.

In my pre-teens she discovered that I had girl’s clothes in my closet, which I had kept hidden away in a suitcase.  She found them and confronted me about it.  I felt so invaded, and her comment, “I don’t want you to be a fag,” stung.  

“I’m not,” I said.

“Good,” and that was the end of the conversation.  But I don’t think my body felt deeper shame than in that moment—it was beyond pink cheeks, it was like all the blood had been drained from my body.

On one level I thought it is what she always wanted, so I was also angry with her for what felt like mixed messages.  And I just felt so deeply betrayed, violated.

I often slept in a skirt, as under the covers was the only safe place to be.  I dreamt of being a ballerina, and being so light on my feet that I could leap and almost fly.  It was just part of me.  And wanting to have these feelings go away meant nothing.  They were my core.

Did she make me non-binary?  I don’t think so.  I was born that way.  But her own conflicted feelings about my gender certainly added a layer of shame to my own.  Science is now telling us that stresses on the mother during pregnancy affects the hormone balance in the womb, and this is the case with people born with dysphoria.  What a relief.  I am so glad that younger generations are now growing up with language that allows for this to be expressed, but it doesn’t make things easier.

My Mother had a hard slog of it.  She did the best she could.  She started a career, and raised us, kept very high standards for us, pushed us to achieve, and we did, even though the wolf was often at our door.  This makes her an angel.  But she also sexualised our relationship by projecting her needs for love and control onto me, for her frustrations about women’s rights, and her burgeoning dislike of men.  Between my father and her boyfriends, it is not surprising that I developed a sense of misandry, and I think she had it too, and this did play out as mild self-hate.

One evening I confronted her in front of my sisters and accused her of sexualising me.  “You just wanted to have sex with me!” I cried.  My sisters looked at me in horror, but when Mom said, “you’re probably right,” they shrieked.

What I can say today is that I love what all of this did to me.  It took years of therapy and personal growth, but I didn’t walk away from my demons.  And today these twisted and complicated feelings about gender and tenderness and love are so overwhelmingly positive for me…and are what I get to explore in the world of D/s.  It is impossible for me to know the richness and inner life of another person, and so I do not judge.  But I also know that the emotional intensity of my life is what gives it colour.  To be able to be with my family and to cry from love over the “smallest” things…to be overwhelmed by a flood of positive emotions.  And “under the covers” this raw, emotional power is on hyper-drive.  Being in the presence of a Domme summons it to the surface, and she is able to play with it as if I am keyboard and she can play the notes she wishes.

And being non-binary is the greatest blessing of all.  While there isn’t a day of my life that has gone by that hasn’t made me suffer from it, it is also the most poignant and beautiful part of me, and one that I would never wish to change.  It lies at the core of who I am.

No, I can’t enjoy a “vanilla” sexual relationship over the long-haul.  We can all fake it, right?  But with someone who allows me to express my sensual and emotional nature, I am able to experience a state of ecstasy that is an overload of emotions, an overload of love.  Getting down onto my knees and metaphorically curling up at Mistress’s feet, allows my id, my loving, sensual nature to come out and be present.  It is she who leads the rest of me to submit, saying “come, its safe, let’s play.”

And in truth, I know nothing that is more sublime.  

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