Today it is my pleasure to introduce my guest, Susannah Birch. Thank you, Susannah, for sharing with my followers. In Susannah's own words,
I’m passionate about women’s rights in childbirth, support for families of those who are mentally ill and domestic abuse prevention, particularly against men and children. I’m a freelance journalist, online marketer, blogger and content creator.
I am also a qualified birth doula. I’m an activist and survivor of childhood trauma & I’m currently preparing to publish my memoirs. I run a local writing group and manage the website and social media for the Toowoomba Writers’ Festival.
I’m going to change the world – watch me.
Join me in welcoming Susannah Birch to the blog.
It took me 25 years to forgive my mother for trying to kill me. It took me 11 of those years to realise that I had something I needed to forgive her for.
When I was two years old, my mother experienced her first bipolar psychotic episode and believed that she had been told by God to sacrifice me just as Abraham had been called to sacrifice his only son in the Bible. Unlike Abraham, nothing told my mother to stop and I sustained such serious injuries that my life hung in the balance. It was only because she came out of her psychosis enough to realise something was wrong, and ring the police, that local emergency services were able to get to me in time. [Trigger Warning]You can listen to the full story here.
My mother spent a year in a psychiatric hospital and then came home to live with my father and I. My father was assured that my mother was fine and although we lived with my paternal grandparents, I felt that my life was normal and that my mother was too. I could remember the event; I just assumed that because other adults accepted my mother’s current mental health, it was a onetime event outside anyone’s control, even my mother’s.
It wasn’t till my mother experienced a breakdown when I was 13, taking me to the other side of the country and changing her entire fashion style, beliefs and social habits that I started to realise something wasn’t right. My teenage years were confused attempts to find the mother I’d never had and at the same time push her out of my life for what she’d done to me.
I rushed into a relationship, marriage at 20 and then just a few years later, I had my first child. Instead of making me understand my own mother, it confused me even more. I didn’t understand how my mother could have done what she did, but I experienced graphic images in my head, imagining what would happen if some part of her was somehow in me. It wasn’t till years later that I’d realise this was just a facet of OCD and other issues that became more obvious after entering motherhood.
My relationship with my mother followed a pattern. I’d try and make contact in an attempt to find the mother I so very much wanted in my life. It’d always end in tears. Over the years I had a screaming match with her in the middle of a downtown area, hacked her Facebook account and messaged all her friends, refused to talk to her and yelled and swore at her.
I kept hearing how forgiveness would make me feel better, lift a burden off my shoulders, allow me to let go. All I felt when I thought of forgiving my mother, though, was that I’d be condoning her behaviour and admitting my own weakness.
In 2013 I read a book called Mummy is a Killer by Nikkia Roberson. It told the story of how Nikkia’s two siblings were killed by her mother. I finished the book in two days but the part that amazed me the most was that Nikkia had forgiven her mother. The first tiny piece of me started to question how I could take the same journey.
The day I forgave my mother came and passed without me even realising it. The first few tendrils of forgiveness didn’t feel like anything more than compassion, like walking in someone else’s shoes. My thoughts subtly changed from being about what she’d done to me to how she must feel, having done what she did. My anger started to change into something else. I thought of all the issues my mother had had over the years as she buried that traumatic day, tried to rewrite history and slid deeper into her illness in an attempt to erase her awful memories of what her own hands had done.
There is no simple journey to forgiveness. No one can tell you how to feel or how to forgive. It’s just something that happens, either as a culmination of learning and thinking or from slowly looking at the events that require your forgiveness.
I never believed that forgiveness was more about me than her, until I felt it. It’s a wonderful feeling. I don’t condone my mother’s actions and I still don’t have contact with her, but I’m at peace with what happened. And for the things I did to her on my journey to forgiveness, I feel that she needs to forgive me too. While what she did to me was outside her control, what I did to her wasn’t outside mine. Maybe, at some step on my future journey, we’ll both be able to find the answers and the forgiveness we’re both looking for, even if it’s not together.