I had a strange revelation about being closeted the other day. Keeping in mind if you haven’t’ read the other posts in my series about accepting my own queerness, I’m only just now at 51 exiting the closet. I’ve been in there so long that it’s a way of life and honestly it’s still hard to unravel what my actual feelings are from the masks I’ve worn. Every day it seems like I have a new revelation moment.
In this case I was venting about difficulties I’m experiencing with my Mom. She has started calling home frequently asking when one of us is coming to pick her up from wherever it is she thinks she is today. In reality she has forgotten my father is gone and I’m the only close family left. She’s currently in a nursing home very nearby but doesn’t remember that information at all. These calls are distressing on more than one level. Distressing because of her confusion, of course, but also because of the reminder that she’s not home.
When she went to stay there it was really the last thing I wanted to do but we had hit a point where the care she needed was beyond me in every respect of the word. There were some very dark months for me after I reached that point of no return. I felt like I had failed her and there was a sense of lost purpose. I felt like in some way I had simply reached the end of my own road.
In those first months, I struggled to get out of bed some days. It was not uncommon for me to get up just to walk over and see her and then straight back to bed after I had checked on her. If the cats had not needed my care I really do wonder… Eventually I turned a corner and finally concentrated on my exit from the closet I’ve lived in for so long. It was sort of my get busy living moment because the alternative was too dark.
Getting back to the revelation, I mentioned to my captive audience that during the bulk of my mother’s descent with dementia I had held onto that information. When the doctor told her he thought she was experiencing dementia, she was adamant she didn’t want people to know. As things got worse I did let a few of my friends into the circle because there were many times I needed advice on how to handle various issues. But there were very few and I didn’t want to abuse our friendships too much.
Relating that information I suddenly realized Mom and I had both been living in my closet. I was keeping her secrets and my secrets and I think that was at least part of the exhaustion I was feeling. It was crowded in there just for me, but for almost five years I had sat on her condition. And as little support as I had for her decline, I had no one I was willing to talk to about my own long years of questioning.
It was a relief when I could finally tell people what had been going on with her. A few had already worked it out of course. And although there are still people I haven’t let into my circle of trust yet, I can tell you each time I have let someone in, it’s been a feeling of weight coming off my shoulders. You hear that often in people’s coming out stories, but it’s an experience to actually feel lighter after letting go of the closets and masks and the general defensive posture. I’m sure there’s going to be rejection in some corner before long but I’ve already hit the general vibe that I will consider it their loss no matter how close I thought we were.