Life can be serious business.

Silent Roots.

My family tree is not tall nor strong, but gnarly, with roots that weave, bend and hide. There are blank pages and missing words in my heritage. And now, there is no one left to fill in the gaps or unearth the secrets.

I learned last night that my uncle, my mom’s brother, died back in January. I never knew him. Yet, I felt oddly stricken at hearing he was dead.

family roots

They’re all gone.

I never met my grandmother. I believe I was around the age of four when she died. All I really know about her is that she had her first child, my mom, at the age of 14, and she was a respiratory therapist that died of lung cancer in her 40’s.

Only a few years after that, her youngest son committed suicide. A son, brother, uncle, husband and father to four young children. He was 35. The same age as his youngest daughter is now.

Fast forward to 1995. I’m 14 years old. After a young lifetime of day dreaming what it would be like to have a mom that didn’t disappear– a “normal” mom, I got to live with my mother for the first time since I was two. She was finally of sound mind and heart. But her story began to lie too heavy on her chest. She died of lung cancer a year and a half later. She was 46.

I was 17 when my grandfather died. I arrived in Florida after his funeral. I have a bullet shell from the 3-volley salute he was honored with at his funeral. Other than him being in the navy, being an avid outdoorsman and a talented saxophone player, I know nothing about him. He was 67 when he died.

And now, the last son and only remaining member of that family of five is gone. He was 62. He had no family near him. No one knew where he was. Nor did any one go looking. From what I know, he was often times delusional and only reached out when he needed money. Last anyone heard from him, he claimed he was working for NASA.

Dissolution of the chase.

My uncle’s death has hit me hard. Not because I was ever emotionally attached to him, but because he was the last one. I don’t believe he could have ever filled the hundreds of missing pages from this family’s story, but knowing there is no longer a living connection to them–it’s sad. It hurts. There was so much pain wrapped up in the short time they all got to live. Alcoholism, physical abuse, sexual abuse, substance abuse, mental illness, domestic abuse, and eventually failing hearts and bodies.

Our identity is more that who and where we come from, but it’s a part of it none-the-less. The lack of connection I have to either side of my family, especially the maternal side, causes me a lot of grief. I’ve tried to put pieces together for years, in hopes of “solving” the mystery. In hopes of understanding where the pain originated, why it manifested it’s ugly face with abuse, broken lives, mental illness, aching souls and young deaths.

Our fate is not bound by the legacy of our families, but a level of understanding who they are and what contributed to the choices they made, offers a degree of insight I’ve craved most my life. My uncle’s death sent my wheels spinning yet again, with this mission at the forefront of my brain. I feel, at times, addicted to the chase. As if some day, I’m going to stumble upon a record or piece of information that is going to make it all make sense.

I’m starting to learn that my pursuit for a linear family picture, is just a way to avoid processing the grief I carry. The particulars don’t matter. I’m probably better off not knowing anymore details than the few I have learned. The option to connect the dots, is not really an option at all. The story is as broken as the people within it, and I need to accept that. That is difficult to come to terms with, but necessary.

Change of shift.

I think my determination to investigate my family has always been fueled with love, fear and sadness. Love for a family I crave, fear of becoming like the family I am a part of and sadness that their story can’t be told. I don’t know that my curiosity will ever dissipate, but my focus is shifting.

The shift is in how I view my family–that gnarly tree with roots that bend, weave and hide. I’m coming closer to an understanding that I don’t need to prove anything, or make excuses for their choices with explanations. Searching for reason will not change history or prevent history from repeating itself, nor will it avoid predisposed genes from running wild. Only I, and the other children of this broken family can do that. We can both honor our family and grieve them by turning the focus to the roots we are responsible for lying down.

It’s time for me to accept the pieces I know, honor the few stories that can be told and allow my grief to help me move forward.

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Life can be serious business.

It’s A Shame About Shame.

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Shame has a crushing feel to it. I think to those that have felt or continue to feel shame, it’s suddenly having a spot light aimed on you. It’s the turning of your stomach, like a cement truck, endlessly twisting what’s inside. Shame is that instant jerk of my head, so as not to force another person to have to look me in the eyes. It’s the belief that I am damaged goods, and everyone knows it.

Shame is a burden I have carried most of my life. It seems to come with the territory of being a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. It wasn’t something I identified as a consequence of the abuse. Growing up, I didn’t know life without it. I felt like I walked around with a neon, flashing light on my forehead that said, “Don’t look, I’m gross.”

Shame is still present in my life. It doesn’t consume me, but becomes an occasional reckoning force. Nothing turns that spotlight on as bright as talking about being a mother suffering with depression and suicidal ideations.

When people talk about suicide, it often lacks an empathetic tone. I don’t fault people for this. It’s not my wish that anyone should feel a pit so deep in their soul, that they crave to feel nothing at all instead.

I’ve been in many conversations where the word “selfish” has been used to describe someone’s decision to attempt and/or succeed at suicide. People say things like, “He has a good life – why can’t he just see that?” Believe me, he can. That’s what makes the coat of shame so thick. In spite of everything he may have –  family, money, love – his brain will win every time.

I used to immediately slouch my shoulders and look away from others when the topic of mental illness or sexual abuse would come up. I would feel as if I was burdening others to know they were talking about me. The secret that I am that tainted person, may upset them, so best to just sink in to the pavement.

Shame makes you feel like it is not your choice whether or not you can openly talk about what was done to you, or what was etched in to your DNA. I never felt like I was allowed to let anyone know that I genuinely have felt like suicide was an option. I didn’t know how to not put someone else’s comfort level above my own.

I’ve learned though, that drawing attention to the fact that I can empathetically talk about the subject of depression and abuse actually heals me. Discussing it, has become one of the most effective tools I own. I can help control the conversation when I use the unfortunate knowledge I have, and steer it in a productive way.

It doesn’t come without a strong pull on my chin to look at the ground when I actually do join a conversation. I try my best to fight it. Ridding myself of shame has been like strengthening a muscle inside me. Every time I refuse to look at the ground, instead keeping eye contact, as I confidently discuss a first hand knowledge of something our society sees as taboo, that muscle strengthens.

People talk about fighting stigma but go about combatting it in a processed, packaged way. The stigma exists because of the shame. Lets start accepting that to be worrisome or embarrassed over what you can control, is to be ashamed. Feeling shamed, is what happens when something is done to you. One is always without choice. Understanding the difference is critical and can in fact save lives.

**Originally featured on Crazy Good Parent

Life can be serious business.

Alice In Her Own Wonderland.

While searching for blogs related to mental health awareness, I stumbled upon A Canvas Of The Minds via  Twindaddy at Stuphblog.  I’m so grateful I did.  This blog is exactly what we need to see more of in our everyday lives.  Combatting the stigma in order to treat the minds of those that carry a mental health diagnosis is crucial to our society.  Especially in a time like now where random acts of violence are mistaken for an opportunity to vilify anyone with a diagnosis and attempts at suicide are  labeled “attention seeking behavior”.

I want to do my part in raising awareness so I am taking the “Blog for mental health pledge” and will continue to make my own struggles and knowledge on the matter transparent.  Here is my pledge:

“I pledge my commitment to the Blog for Mental Health 2014 Project. I will blog about mental health topics not only for myself, but for others. By displaying this badge, I show my pride, dedication, and acceptance for mental health. I use this to promote mental health education in the struggle to erase stigma.”  

Here is a story I wrote just about a month ago that I will use as my introductory piece.

My mother was bi-polar. I don’t have the paper trail to prove this but I know in my heart she was. My educational background is in psychology and I started my career and continued to work with the mentally ill before resigning to stay home with my young children. I share that not as if to say I know what I know because of my educational or work history.  It’s relevant because I’m starting to understand that my focus on furthering my education and understanding of mental illness was really a quest to love my mother not a career choice.

I can’t tell you how many times I saw my Mom in the tired lines imprinted on female patient’s faces I worked with both on a mental health unit and of those I worked with in their homes. It’s like they were all pieces to the puzzle that was my Mom. She was in and out of my life so much through out her life that all I really have is pieces. I became a motherless daughter in 1997, when I was 15 years old.  The stories from my older siblings, all of whom are at least 12 years older than me, are a part of figuring it all out. Understanding where she came from, what she went through and the decisions she made is another.

It’s both a beautiful and some times disparaging thing when a daughter idolizes her Mom. Especially when, despite the mother’s best efforts, she could not be the kind of Mom that she needed to be. It’s so conflicting to want to be like your mother both because of and despite her faults.

I have had my own bouts with clinically diagnosed depression.  At times, I have questioned whether it is actually the uncompromising pulls of high and low that strangle me and not just the low.  Either way, the force that is my entangled brain has, at times, left me fighting the urge to run away.  To escape and embark on an anonymous life.  A life free of my current self.  In a sense, a life void of authenticity that allows more choice in how I can be perceived.  My mother did this.

According to my sister, Mom would sometimes be gone for weeks at a time only to return wearing a waitress uniform adorned with a name tag that read Alice.  My mom’s name was Connie.

A few years ago, I googled my Mom’s name because I was that desperate to find clues about who she was.  I surprisingly stumbled upon an arrest record in North Carolina from January of 1985.  At that time, Mom lived in Florida and my oldest sister was due to give birth to her first child.  My Mom had been arrested for larceny, impersonating someone else and somehow ensued a police car chase.

I was conflicted with anger and jealousy.  Her choices hurt her family.  Still somehow I craved to go on my own “adventure”.  That is the problem with glorifying someone.  Their actions are excused.  Especially when that person is your Mom and part of you is her.  I know that it was her untreated illness that helped fuel her disappearances.  I just wish I knew where she was on that polar line that ran through her mind when she would choose to leave.  And just how much of it was a choice.

When I first considered starting a blog, I thought about using an alias. I finally decided it would defeat my purpose. Writing is a cathartic experience for me and I no longer want to experience that in hiding or alone or in search of answers I have no real way of knowing.  I can’t keep chasing the missing pieces of the puzzle.  It’s best left unfinished but placed in a frame and hung to be honored anyway.  The whole picture isn’t really necessary to me anymore.  The love is in the pieces that are connected.

I am finally seeing Connie for who she was – the un-romanticized version of her life as a child, a daughter, a sister, a woman, my Mom.

http://acanvasoftheminds.com/2014/01/07/blog-for-mental-health-2014/

Life can be serious business.

Motherless Mom.

I tend to express more grief on the day my
mother was born than the day that she died.  A little
baby girl entered the world as innocent as my own,  and then
endured four lifetimes worth of struggle in 46 short years. 
That’s a tough pill for me to swallow.  Even harder because
I am her baby girl.  Having said that,
today marks the eve of her death 17 years ago and I am missing her
terribly.  It’s always the days leading up to anniversaries
and holidays that are the hardest for me.  In honor of her,
myself and other Motherless Moms, I wanted
to share this post I wrote early on.  I tried
to capture the essence of losing her and what it means to me at
this point in my life. 6455_1190790687614_1163766376_30564651_1135391_n For me, it’s hard to find
the words to convey what it is like to be a Motherless
daughter.  It means something different at every stage in my
life.  Hope Edelman wrote in her book “Motherless
Daughters”
about wanting to shout
to everyone that her mom died
because it sums up so much of who she is.  I get
that. The only thing that has impacted me greater than losing
my Mom at the age of 15 has been becoming a Mom myself. Not all of
thsadness comes from not having that
person who you know above all would answer your call or would
have a piece of advice whether or not you want it.  My
sadness has morphed in to comprehending the absence of time
needed to know your mom beyond being your Mom.  My
Mother was a beautiful kind of chaos.  A kind of chaos
that rears it’s fury all over my own thoughts, reactions and
emotions.   I know it’s there…I can feel the
connection.  I just wish I could
see it in her eyes these days. 
That my daughter could see the common
fragile thread that exists between me and the woman that
created me so that when she gets older, she’ll be able to not
only see but understand and embrace
the kind
of crazy
we share. My Mother’s battle with mental
illness and addictions prevented her version of mothering to be
found in any how-to book; however, I still crave to know what her
answers would have been to the questions I need to ask her about
how I am suppose to mother. 
It’s unsettling that no matter how dysfunctional
or even neglectful your Mother may be, you still
love her and want her in your life.  She is the first
piece of my story and it is the piece I know the least about
because of the point in my, and her ,life when I lost her. No
body goes to a school and learns the tricks of the trade on
parenting but most have that go-to professor she calls
Mom.  That’s the void that I live with in my heart. 
However, I have been blessed with women landing in my life for
reasons I am just now starting to really understand.  Women
that if were asked to gather in a small space, would form
a shape that fits perfectly inside the void in my heart left
when my Mom died.   These women have molded me by
offering divinely designed doses of lessons my Mom may or may not
have been able to teach me… had she had enough time. These
women, have taken many forms.  A sister that cared for me (and
still does) when there was no body left to do the job and
that understood that her sheer presence in my life was a
matter of tipping the scales towards history NOT repeating
itself.  A teacher who created lesson plans out of thin
air just so she could carry me under her wing for a little
while longer.  A co-worker and friend that gave me a
glimpse of what recovery could have looked like for my own Mother
and shared her many lessons learned along the way.  A coach
that hugged me and then told me to get up when I fell and try
harder.  A friend that no matter how dark or mundane it gets,
has the power to raise me up and keep me laughing.  A boss
that didn’t accept my judgments of people presenting weaker than me
and pointed my heart in the right direction to help instead of
judge.  A college professor that supported my quest to
identify a diagnosis that best suited my Mother’s actions and
personality.  Not one but two single Moms who
opened their doors to me when I rebelled the hardest and
needed love the most.  A soul sister’s Mother who embodied
what a Mother should look like and taught me the power of
prayer.  And a woman, my Mother’s,
brother’s daughter, who by no coincidence, I connected
with to ensure that I knew I was not alone. So Mom…I say
this to you with a broken but healing heart.  I
understand why you couldn’t be the one to parent and/or, in
the flesh, support me in parenting my own.  The only
beauty in your departure has been the grace in which these other
Moms have and continue to imprint my life.  I have grown
from a Mother-less daughter to a daughter or many Mothers.

Life can be serious business.

Alice In Her Own Wonderland.

My mother was bipolar. I don’t have the paper trail to prove this, but know in my heart she was. My educational background is in psychology and I started my career and continued to work with the mentally ill before resigning to stay home with my young children. I share that not as if to say I know what I know because of my educational or work history.  It’s relevant because I’m starting to understand that my focus on furthering my education and understanding of mental illness was really a quest to love my mother, not a career choice.

I can’t tell you how many times I saw my Mom in the tired lines imprinted on the female patient’s faces I worked with, both on a mental health unit and of those I worked with in their homes. It’s like they were all pieces to the puzzle that was my Mom. She was in and out of my life so much through out her life that all I really have is pieces. I became a motherless daughter in 1997, when I was 15 years old.  The stories from my older siblings, all of whom are at least 10 years older than me, are a part of figuring it all out. Understanding where she came from, what she went through and the decisions she made is another.

It’s both a beautiful and some times disparaging thing when a daughter idolizes her Mom. Especially when, despite the mother’s best efforts, she could not be the kind of Mom that she needed to be. It’s so conflicting to want to be like your mother both because of and despite her faults.

I have had my own bouts with clinically diagnosed depression.  At times, I have questioned whether it is actually the uncompromising pulls of high and low that strangle me and not just the low.  Either way, the force that is my entangled brain has, at times, left me fighting the urge to run away.  To escape and embark on an anonymous life.  A life free of my current self.  In a sense, a life void of authenticity that allows more choice in how I can be perceived.  My mother did this.

According to my sister, Mom would sometimes be gone for weeks at a time only to return wearing a waitress uniform adorned with a name tag that read Alice.  My mom’s name was Connie.

A few years ago, I googled my Mom’s name because I was that desperate to find clues about who she was.  I surprisingly stumbled upon an arrest record in North Carolina from January of 1985.  At that time, Mom lived in Florida and my oldest sister was due to give birth to her first child.  My Mom had been arrested for larceny, impersonating someone else and somehow ensued a police car chase.

I was conflicted with anger and jealousy.  Her choices hurt her family.  Still somehow I craved to go on my own “adventure”.  That is the problem with glorifying someone.  Their actions are excused.  Especially when that person is your Mom and part of you is her.  I know that it was her untreated illness that helped fuel her disappearances.  I just wish I knew where she was on that polar line that ran through her mind, when she would choose to leave.  And just how much of it was a choice.

When I first considered starting a blog, I thought about using an alias. I finally decided it would defeat my purpose. Writing is a cathartic experience for me and I no longer want to experience that in hiding or alone or in search of answers I have no real way of knowing.  I can’t keep chasing the missing pieces of the puzzle.  It’s best left unfinished but placed in a frame and hung to be honored anyway.  The whole picture isn’t really necessary to me anymore.  The love is in the pieces that are connected.

I am finally seeing Connie for who she was – the un-romanticized version of her life as a child, a daughter, a sister, a woman, my Mom.

Life can be serious business.

Depression and Motherhood: This is My Truth.

Tom Gauld
Tom Gauld

My truth about struggling with depression and being a mom is not pretty.  It’s not a feel good story. It’s a story that continues to evolve.

My depression started at a young age.  As a child, I was exposed to a type of environment where my predisposed genes didn’t have a fighting chance to stay hidden.  I was never put in treatment and I don’t believe it was even recognized by the adults around me.  It wasn’t until I was in my late teens/early 20’s that even I recognized it.

My depression was masked a lot in my 20’s by numbing myself with alcohol.  A shitty day just meant I really needed to get drunk.  If I look back at my 20’s, I was a damn good functioning alcoholic that balanced school, work and partying quite well.  Until I didn’t.

Around my mid to late 20’s, the effects of the depression became harder and harder to bury or ignore.  It was like anything in life, you can only bury your demons for so long and then boom.  I started to have bad weeks instead of days.  I wanted nothing to do with anyone, including myself.  I finally gave in and began taking an anti-depressant in conjunction with psychotherapy.  It worked for the time being.

I began working in the field of mental health after graduating college.  Do what you know right?  Being the one who evaluated countless people in the ER, I knew the lingo and the symptoms that usually led to an admission on the mental health unit, a place where I also worked.  This created so much internal conflict for me.  I loved what I did and was good at it because I could truly empathize.  But it also created a lot of fear in regards to dealing with my own struggles.  I couldn’t even be completely honest with my therapist because I was scared that if I admitted to certain things such as having suicidal thoughts and any sort of plan, I would be seen as a safety risk.  I couldn’t let myself fall in to the broken mental health system, even as broken as I was.  So I continued to work harder at dancing around my symptoms instead of trudging through the heartache of admitting to myself or even a professional what was really going on in my own head.

I was so angry.  I lashed out at complete strangers.  I fell apart over spilled milk.  My work became impossible because everything triggered me.  The individual’s stories became too difficult to hear and I was no longer helping anyone, especially myself.  I literally fell to pieces.  I thankfully had a primary care doctor at the time that was more than just a normal doctor.  I trusted her so I went to her office in the middle of the day during work.  I could not pull myself together and I didn’t really have an explanation as to why.  She took me out of work for the next few days.  I called my husband, scared to death what he would think and say.  He, being the man that he is, told me not to worry about anything and to just take care of myself.  I went home and went to bed.  I didn’t get up for three days.  When I did I felt better but knew I was right back where I had been before.  It was time to start taking medication again and get back in to therapy.

Shortly after that, at the age of 27, I got pregnant.  Although I wasn’t a lover of being pregnant, I have to say I was never happier.  The boost of hormones were fabulous and I felt great.  And then the third trimester happened.  I plummeted.  I hated myself because how could I be so awfully sad about and ungrateful for the life inside me.  I hated that I hated myself.  I felt bad for feeling bad.

After my daughter was born, I had the normal baby blues but thankfully it passed and within a few weeks I had fallen in love with my little girl.  But then something flipped that switch.  The switch that I have learned I have no control over.  I became numb, her needs became overwhelming.  I became an auto pilot mom.  I did what I needed to do but that was about it.  This wasn’t the normal, over tired, overwhelmed, new mom effect.  This was joyless motions.  It was feeling like a failure with every action.  This was irrational.  I can remember thinking what a piece of shit I was that I wasn’t happy about my beautiful life.  To me, at that time, nothing was beautiful.

I reached a point where suicide seemed like a valid solution.  I was just existing anyway.  I wasn’t bringing anything good to the world around me, including the people in it, so what was the fucking point.  I cried so hard when no one was looking.  I couldn’t look in mirrors because I hated what I saw.  It is a scary and very lonely place to be. I felt like I was different than every person/woman/mom around me.  I didn’t dare admit to having suicidal thoughts to anyone, even my husband. What kind of mother or wife am I if I admit to feeling like I need to leave him and my children.

I don’t know how I got through that particular rough patch if I am being honest.  But time went on and I survived.  My relationship had good days and bad days.  On the bad days, I just knew my husband was going to leave me and I didn’t blame him.  Who wants to live with someone that can’t seem to get her shit together and falls apart or blows up when the wind blows to the east.  I tried so hard.  I would take medicine for a while, stabilize and then go off of it because I felt like I had it under control.  Which is madness in itself.  I was the one encouraging people to take their meds with over used scripts like “if you had diabetes you wouldn’t not take your meds, well depression is no different”.  I was actually fighting everyone elses battles, with a vengeance, to help erase their pain and the stigma of living with a mental illness, but yet couldn’t take my own advice.

After my second child was born, I was on a high fueled with love and what felt like a completion of my family.  I chose not to take medicine with both of my pregnancies and have yet to go back on them since having my son, who is now 15 mths old.  I’m starting to feel the need and see the signs again.  I hate it.  I hate that I need a pill to be of sound mind but I’ve ridden this roller coaster long enough to know how dangerous it can be with out it.

It seems like my depression has gotten more intense after each of my children have been born.  I don’t know why.  Maybe it is the added stress or the changes to my body’s chemistry.  Even though I am able to recognize that funk that seems to cling to me when I am sliding down hill, I can’t prevent it.  I have days where I busy the kids with some sort of something so that I can cry in another room where they don’t see me and ask questions.  I feel so unworthy of my children’s forgiving love some days.

It’s not everyday or even every other week but I still have times when I question why I should continue with this misery.  It is insanely disabling to be in a place where you believe in your heart that a life without a Mom is better than a life with a Mom like me.  I say that with tears in my eyes because I know the damage of both.  My Mom was in and out of my life because of her mental illness and when she finally got on a healthier path mentally, she died of a physical illness.

People that say suicide is selfish are right.  It is.  However, for the person contemplating it or living with pain so great that it is seen as a reasonal option, it feels as if it is more of a gift.  A blessing to others.  Because now the people surrounding you no longer have to feel the effects of your broken being.  This has been my truth for so long.

I would like to say that I have overcome and gotten through the worst of it, but I know better now.  I have; however, come to terms with what this debilitating disease is capable of and am much more likely to ask for help when I need it.  One of the best things a therapist ever said to me was to question whether or not how I am feeling is rational.  If I can’t explain why I am feeling so sad or angry or worthless then it’s time to take better care of myself.  And that doesn’t mean a day at the spa.  I fucking hate it when people say “well make sure you are taking time for yourself.  Go get a massage”.  That is a band aid and if you suggest it you need to better educate yourself.  Taking better care of myself really means to admit to myself and those closest around me that I need an ear, support, a break, compassion and/or a shoulder.

There are all these stigmas attached to women with children that admit to having depression.  A big part of that is because of what is portrayed in the media but also because of the lack of education around mental illness as a whole.  So here, let me clear up a few.  No, I have never had thoughts to hurt my children (in a psychosis kind of way).  Yes, I am fit to raise my children, even on a bad day.  Yes, my kids friends are safe at my house, I have depression, I’m not neglectful.  Please don’t ask me how I am doing with a sad, overly concerned look on your face.  I know what you are really asking and it’s condescending and annoying.  No I don’t “check out” on my kids.  I may not be the lively, playful mother every day of the week but I’m not hiding in my room while they run loose and mold themselves in to psychopaths either.  Yes, I have bad days that are just that – a bad day.  And guess what, I am entitled to those.  If I flip someone off or cry over a commercial, it’s more than likely due to my hot head or exceptionally thin skin, not my diagnosis.  Yes, I have good days and no, I’m not pretending to be happy.  I am a genuinely happy person by nature.  And here is a big one.  Please take note of this one because it is the worst thing you could ever say to someone like me.  Don’t ever assume that a person can “snap out of it”.  It’s impossible and you’re being naïve and downright hateful if you think ANYONE would choose to feel the way I have attempted to describe.

Depression looks different to everyone that suffers from it.  However, I have learned through personal and professional experience that those that live with it have one thing in common – loneliness.  I wish people talked candidly about it.  I wish women felt more comfortable and less shame about admitting these type of thoughts and feelings.  I just hope that by sharing my story, someone will feel less alone and less shameful.

Life can be serious business.

Motherless Mom.

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For me, it’s hard to find the words to convey what it is like to be a Motherless daughter.  It means something different at every stage in my life.  Hope Edelman wrote in her book “Motherless Daughters” about wanting to shout to everyone that her mom died because it sums up so much of who she is.  I get that. The only thing that has impacted me greater than losing my Mom at the age of 15 has been becoming a Mom myself.

Not all of thsadness comes from not having that person who you know above all would answer your call or would have a piece of advice whether or not you want it.  My sadness has morphed in to comprehending the absence of time needed to know your mom beyond being your Mom.  My Mother was a beautiful kind of chaos.  A kind of chaos that rears it’s fury all over my own thoughts, reactions and emotions.   I know it’s there…I can feel the connection.  I just wish I could see it in her eyes these days.  That my daughter could see the common fragile thread that exists between me and the woman that created me so that when she gets older, she’ll be able to not only see but understand and embrace the kind of crazy we share.

My Mother’s battle with mental illness and addictions prevented her version of mothering to be found in any how-to book; however, I still crave to know what her answers would have been to the questions I need to ask her about how I am suppose to mother.  It’s unsettling that no matter how dysfunctional or even neglectful your Mother may be, you still love her and want her in your life.  She is the first piece of my story and it is the piece I know the least about because of the point in my, and her ,life when I lost her.

No body goes to a school and learns the tricks of the trade on parenting but most have that go-to professor she calls Mom.  That’s the void that I live with in my heart.  However, I have been blessed with women landing in my life for reasons I am just now starting to really understand.  Women that if were asked to gather in a small space, would form a shape that fits perfectly inside the void in my heart left when my Mom died.   These women have molded me by offering divinely designed doses of lessons my Mom may or may not have been able to teach me… had she had enough time.

These women, have taken many forms.  A sister that cared for me (and still does) when there was no body left to do the job and that understood that her sheer presence in my life was a matter of tipping the scales towards history NOT repeating itself.  A teacher who created lesson plans out of thin air just so she could carry me under her wing for a little while longer.  A co-worker and friend that gave me a glimpse of what recovery could have looked like for my own Mother and shared her many lessons learned along the way.  A coach that hugged me and then told me to get up when I fell and try harder.  A friend that no matter how dark or mundane it gets, has the power to raise me up and keep me laughing.  A boss that didn’t accept my judgments of people presenting weaker than me and pointed my heart in the right direction to help instead of judge.  A college professor that supported my quest to identify a diagnosis that best suited my Mother’s actions and personality.  Not one but two single Moms who opened their doors to me when I rebelled the hardest and needed love the most.  A soul sister’s Mother who embodied what a Mother should look like and taught me the power of prayer.  And a woman, my Mother’s, brother’s daughter, who by no coincidence, I connected with to ensure that I knew I was not alone.

So Mom…I say this to you with a broken but healing heart.  I understand why you couldn’t be the one to parent and/or, in the flesh, support me in parenting my own.  The only beauty in your departure has been the grace in which these other Moms have and continue to imprint my life.  I have grown from a Mother-less daughter to a daughter or many Mothers.