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The why. Well, only some of it.

Courageous.

I have seen many of you write that to me over the past few days.

From Webster’s Dictionary online courageous is: mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty.

It is so very hard for me to hear this word because I do not think of myself as courageous.  I think of myself as merely wanting to share in hopes that this will help someone else.  But I can see now, reading the definition, why people would think I am courageous.

I see the word persevere and think I am great at that.  I will try and try and try again.  I may have my lows, but I never truly give up.  I can say that about myself.  Somewhere, along the way, I learned this perseverance.  With my mom, I never stopped trying, but I did accept at one point, that I could not save her.  If I am being honest though, it still breaks my heart.

My mother had been in and out of hospitals for as long as I could remember.  But even now, I do not think she ever had an actual diagnosis.  I am not a therapist or a doctor, but I knew and loved my mom for all of my twenty-seven years before she was gone.  I can say with 100% certainty that she suffered from severe (major or clinical) depression.  When things were bad, they were very very bad.  I do not know if she suffered from bi-polar disorder or not.  She did fit some traits. She had manic phases when the house would be clean and spotless, and she had days when she did not get out of bed.  But she never had that actual diagnosis, so I cannot be certain.

This next part will probably come to a shock to those of you who even knew the tiniest bit of what was going on.  My mom did display traits of multiple personalities at times.  I have no medical background, and again, I say that though she was admitted (several times) to psychiatric wards at hospitals, she was never under the full care of a psychologist or a psychiatrist.  I hate to say it, but her medical doctors did not help, as they were often the ones who were prescribing her the medication and well aware that she was abusing it.

All I can go on, is my memories and what I have seen.  I have seen my mother change completely in front of my eyes, on multiple occasions.  Sometimes I was left to wonder if it was because of drugs or alcohol or if something else was going on.  But several times she also told me that I was not talking to Sue (my mom).  The person that I saw some of the time—the anger and extreme emotions—that was not my mother’s true personality.  So it confused me very much when she turned into this angry person that I could not reach.  Like I said, this started to make more sense as I became older and was more aware of such disorders.

Out of all of her addiction, battles, and depression, this haunts me more than anything.  Because when I research multiple personality disorder (or dissociate-personality disorder) she actually fits some of the traits:

  • Depression
  • Mood swings
  • Suicidal tendencies
  • Sleep disorders
  • Anxiety and panic attacks
  • Alcohol and drug abuse

I will never have answers.  What I do know is that my mom experienced trauma at a very young age and very much of it.

My mom was molested as a child by a close family member.  There is no other easy way to say this other than to just put it out there.  She never received proper therapy for this and it was a family secret for years and years.  I can only imagine the pain of keeping that secret and what it must have done to her.  I know it sounds totally cliché, but back then—the 60’s and 70’s, I think this stuff was just swept under the rug.  You just dealt with life—things happen!  I agree, to a point.  Life does happen.  But abuse, any abuse is hard to recover from.  What was done to her…I cannot fathom.  When I think about it (I try not to) all I can feel is her pain.  I know that she did the very best she could for as long as she could before she gave into her pain.

My parents married young and my mom had my brother at 18.  She had me when she was 22.  They built a brand new home together, next to my grandmother (my dad’s mom).  They ran a party store together and probably, by all accounts, had it together pretty much and were successful.

I know that my mom also suffered from severe post-partum depression.  She told me.  We had long talks about how she felt after delivery—it is even written in my baby book.  I know that she got it more with me then with my brother.  I’ll admit, for a long time, for a very long time, I wondered if I was the source of her pain.  Why did she get post-partum depression so much worse after having me?  Did I cause her that much pain?

As an adult, I KNOW better.  But as a child and teenager you start to wonder about the WHY of all of it.  You look for answers and when the answers are not written out directly in front of you, sometimes you look inward for answers—because there simply is nowhere else to look.

So my parents “seemingly” had it together.  I am sure, some of those days were the very best of their life.  They were young, they had a home, and they had a business.  But they were young.  And they fought.  And they both had tempers.  And my dad drank.  And life is HARD.  I think there is no one answer, but the want to numb her pain grew and took over.

When life is good and good things are happening, I think we can obviously handle more that is thrown our way.  But when you are already a vulnerable person and bad things happen, it takes an incredibly strong person to overcome that feeling of emptiness and depression all by yourself.  I am talking about deep, deep strength that unfortunately, she did not have on her own.  It pains me very much to say that.  She was STRONG and she overcame so much, but her pain overtook her life.  I know she felt alone and I know she felt no one understood her.  I know she felt shame.  This also began during a time when there was a stigma attached to depression, anxiety, mental illness and therapy.  Some people still have that stigma TODAY.  I can’t imagine having to face that stigma back then.

How did she cope?  She turned to prescription medication, and later, alcohol.

How did I cope? By trying, at every possible turn to help her.  And fix her.  And fix ME, if that was the problem. I could be perfect.  By running away, several times, though only for a few hours–because who else would fix it? By coming back and trying again. To fix her. To help her.  To SAVE her.

And finally, with food.  Because I promised myself long ago that I would never be addicted to pain medication, that I would never be an alcoholic, and I would NEVER let my children see some of the things I have seen.  I was so busy trying NOT to be an addict with pills and alcohol that I didn’t even see I was an addict with food.

It simply never occurred to me.

A favorite picture of me and my mom.  From the 1980's.

A favorite picture of me and my mom. From the 1980′s.

 

Comments

  1. Trisha says:

    Get it out girl! This WILL help someone!!

  2. Rachel-This is so similar to my life story. I too, was afraid of succumbing to alcohol or prescription drug abuse and food helped it all go away. It is often the only way we can comfort ourselves or relieve the stress. It is so hard to see our loved ones suffer and not have answers. It is also hard accepting the fact that as children, we couldn’t change this situation as much as we tried. It is very brave of you to share your story and doing so will help many people. You are not alone in this struggle.

  3. I can’t tell you how much your story resonates with me, to know that there is someone else out ‘there’ who understands what it is like, growing up in a home where your mother isn’t like all the other mothers. I grew up keeping my real family life a secret. It wasn’t until I was in my 20′s (now I’m in my mid-50′s) that I understood that my family was extremely dysfunctional. Like you, my mother had a mental illness that was never diagnosed and ‘treated’ herself with alcohol. She would lash out and became exceedingly violent near the end of her life, physically abusing my father. She tried to strangle me one time, and I escaped. But like you, I kept coming back, because I couldn’t stand to abandon her like my sister did.

    My whole childhood is laced with memories of being beaten with a belt, and being told I was never good enough. I tried so hard to be good enough, being sweet, following all the rules, making good grades, doing what she wanted, yet it was never enough for her. I know she loved me on some level, she told me that she did. And she always did so much for me, providing opportunities for me that I could never give myself. But she could ‘turn’ in an instant and be someone else, saying the most vile things and becoming violent. I don’t think she had multiple personalities like your mom, but there were two sides to her personality for sure. The ugly personality always came out when she drank. I know she struggled with untreated depression, as did my father. He too drank to excess, but he just fell asleep when he’d have too much. He never did intercede on my behalf, and just tried to ignore the situation.

    They both died in their very early 60′s. My father willed himself to die, and had a heart attack. He had been suicidal for some time, and never sought treatment. My mother had to hide his gun from him, so that he couldn’t use it. 4 months to the day after he died, she died. She quit eating for 2 weeks, and only drank gallon bottles of scotch every day, until one day she sat down in a chair, and never got up again.

    Even with all that, I still love them both tremendously.

    I am grossly overweight and know that somehow it must be related to how I grew up, but haven’t yet been able to put two-and-two together to figure out how to put myself first and love myself enough to make a lasting change. I am hoping by your sharing your story, it will help me figure this out. Your story today helped me realize that like my mother, I too have an addiction, but to food.

    I am looking forward to your next post- Thank you so much for opening up and sharing. It has touched my heart-

    • Lisa, I am so sorry to hear about your story. Though I hate to hear that other people went through any of this, my hope was that people would know they are not alone. I knew I couldn’t be the only one to go through something like this, but it has taken me a long time to talk about it. And yes, it was the start and source of my comfort with food.

      I truly believe we can all change ourselves for the better. I wish you all the best. xoxo!

  4. Lynn harris Daugherty says:

    My life story is similar to yours regarding your mother. That is about the manic depressive, bipolar tendencies except my mom didn’t drink and abuse her medication. At times our house was spotless too then there would be weeks when she didn’t get out of bed. My father was a saint and took care of her. If it wasn’t for him and my grandmother who lived with us I don’t know how I would of handled it. She did live until age 81. I noticed she was worse when I was in high school, but it continued the rest of her life

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