My mom had bi-polar disorder and was agoraphobic. She was a single mom after my parents separated when I was 2. Our relationship was one fraught with potholes and peaks. For as long as I can remember, my mom went from being full of energy and wanting to do things with me to sleeping all day — leaving me to fend for myself. I have memories of caring for her as early as 8 years old. Once my brother was born, when I was 14, I took over many of the household duties. By the age of 16, I grew frustrated and moved away from home. FAR away. While I was away, my mom had her first psychotic episode and ended up in the hospital. My brother was sent to foster care and then shuffled between aunts. My dad funded my move back, and I stayed with an aunt until my mom and brother were in a new place with room for me.
I returned to high school, and got a job to help with expenses. I felt that I was the adult in my relationship with my mom. I grew weary of constantly reassuring her that I loved her and listening to her tantrums when she didn’t get her way. She often acted like a petulant teen who expects that they are owed something even though they have in no way earned it. But I digress…
She had her second episode when I was 20. I had moved to a different city to live with my Dad. As my aunts cared for my brother I resolved that I was going to be the one caring for him the next time, because I knew there would be another. I started making plans. I spent the summer fighting to gain joint guardianship of my brother and I faced my mother in court several times. She cursed me, thinking in her haze that I was trying to take her son away. I knew she was hurting, and confused but I wouldn’t be deterred. No matter how much it hurt her – or me. Finally, my mom conceded and I was granted joint guardianship. This ensured that should anything happen to her, I would gain custody of my brother. I only ever wanted to protect him.
The last time I saw my mom, I was annoyed with her. As usual, she was complaining that no one in the family loved her. We both knew that over the years she driven everyone away. Her last words to me were, “You still love your crazy old mom, don’t you?” They are forever burned in my memory. You can read that story here.
My entire adult life, I had very little respect for my mom. I loved her, but I couldn’t understand how she could rely on others (or the government) to care for her and my brother. I didn’t understand how most of the time she could be so lazy and apathetic towards everything. I just didn’t understand. After the birth of my second child, I suffered from mild postpartum depression. I had a brief glimpse into how my mom felt. But I still didn’t really understand.
I hated her. But I didn’t want to hate HER. I hated how she raised my brother. I hated that she took her life. I didn’t understand.
But in the past year or so, I’ve begun to heal. As I post on this little blog, I think of what an amazing writer my mom was — when she was well. I think about maybe, someday, picking up her manuscript and finishing her story. I realize that I was lucky to have her. She had many gifts and she left a bit of herself with me. I like to think that it was the best part. And hopefully a bit of her talent for writing.
I look at my kids and am I’m thankful that I have my experiences with her to help guide me as a parent. If nothing else, she taught me the kind of parent NOT to be. I always say I wouldn’t change one thing about my life because is has shaped who I am. The hardships have always brought about the best things in the end, and each struggle has made me a stronger person. I am thankful to have the opportunity to share little bits of my story in the hopes that it helps you too.
Thank you for reading.