4.3. Not in Vain.

This is about to get real personal.

Over the course of the last five years, I have experienced a great deal of loss. But who hasn’t? As we get older, people drop off and we find ourselves standing alone…wondering why we lasted and the others didn’t. What makes me any more worthy to be on this earth, to have another day, another opportunity to make things better?


And yet, here I am. Better said…there I was. Seven months ago, I got the news that my estranged mother died and I was a ball of mixed emotions. Up until that point, I thought I was progressing in life. I was progressing in my job, I was in a relationship with a guy, I figured, was out of my league, I was moving my son into a home, and I was feeling on the up and up.

And then she had to go and die.

Yes, that’s exactly what I thought and for that, I am both ashamed and embarrassed. I was confused, upset, angry, sad, and disappointed over things I don’t have the time or energy to explain. Either way, my thought process would not allow me to function like a “normal grieving” child. I mean, I bawled my eyes out for my step-father but was upset at my tears for this woman I’d struggled with my whole life.

It wasn’t until the autopsy came back that I woke up.

Warning: don’t read your dead parents autopsy report. Seriously, it’s not the way you want to remember anyone. It sterile, it’s graphic, it’s heart breaking. That being said…I’m glad that I did. Up until that moment, I thought I had shit all figured out. I thought I was the best I could be and that life had just been hard because <insert crap here>.

Up until that moment, I was a mess.

I was a barely functioning addict. I was addicted to the pain, drama, and memories of hard times. I couldn’t and wouldn’t let go. When I didn’t have my son, I drank in excess and turned into an angry, aggressive, chaotic beast. This is not self-deprecation. This is fact. I spent years hoping I would be in a relationship so someone else could make me feel worthy. Hell, I briefly dated a guy who blatantly cheated on me and I turned a blind eye because I didn’t think I was worth anything more. I risked my health, my future, my happiness for someone else’s opinion of me. I hated everything about myself but kept the barely there smile in hopes people would think I had my shit together. I hid behind the one thing I was doing well…raising my son. I made everything I did about him and when I was feeling inner turmoil, I pushed it down and rationalized that I should be happy because I’m a mother.

It was all bullshit.

And then I read that autopsy. And I was forced to think. To reflect. To self analyze. I thought about losing my dad and where I was in my life, mid-divorce, when he died. I thought about how ashamed I was that I didn’t have my life together and he never got to see me in a better state. I thought about losing my best friend Nico and how he hoped for a good life for me. A life I hoped someone would give me instead of a life I should have earned. I thought about my sister, Barbara, and how she died. I came full circle and thought about my mother.

The demons she faced

are no excuse for the choices she made. BUT…I have to acknowledge something big here. I have to acknowledge her sickness. I have to acknowledge that she came from a time and place where mental health, addiction, and abuse were not talked about. Feelings were not permitted. These things were alien to her. She was programmed to believe her sickness could be silenced, could be quieted, could be ignored and it would all just go away.

She chased that possibility through sex, drugs, alcohol, and manipulation to the point that she believed her lies. She made false claims of being physically ill. And I hated her for that. BUT…it was easier, more acceptable to falsely claim physical ailments than to admit mental anguish because that is the way the world me live in works. She followed the beaten path and in the process was beaten.

And now, things are different.

I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder II when I was 13 and I pretended I could maintain. I have had low self-esteem, considered suicide, and drowned in depression for as long as I can remember. I spent years crying myself to sleep, wishing my own demise, hating my body and mind, avoiding anything that challenged me, and settled for minimal connections in order to feel like I was in control. I couldn’t make friends so I said I didn’t want them. I was afraid to have my book rejected so I stopped writing it. I wasn’t living or even surviving.

I had no sense of direction because I didn’t want to pick up the map and figure things out for myself. I was lazy when it came to bettering my life. I wasn’t taking care of myself and I hid behind the excuse, “I don’t have the time.”

But I did. And I do.

The only time there is no time is when you’re dead. Everything else is an excuse. I may be like my mother in certain ways. But in so many ways, I am not. I am not dead. I have another chance, the chance she was unable to take, to make this life meaningful.

I visit a therapist once a week. I take Latuda for my BP. I work out 5x a week. I talk about my feelings and how I can be a better me. I take medication that levels out the highs and lows. I push myself to lift more, run faster, feel the burn of progress through my muscles.

I do this for me and I can say that without feeling selfish. I do this so I can know me, love me, appreciate me. And hell if it didn’t take 31 years, tons of loss, and wasted time to figure it out. I do this for me because it has to start with me.

And in turn, my son sees a woman who loves herself, a woman with growing self-esteem, a woman who believes in hard work and determination, a mother who wants to be around a long time.

My mother died so I could live

and in her struggle, I have learned so much without having to fall that far down. I am sad for her. I am sad for the life she didn’t live. I am sad for the memories never made. I am sad because I cannot tell her that she did, in fact, teach me something quite worthwhile. I am sad because I cannot tell her how thankful I am for this lesson.

It is too late for my mother

but my story does not have to be written the same. Because we are the writers of our story and though tragedy has reigned for so many chapters before…I refuse to include it in this one.

I am not my illness. I am not “living with” my illness.

We are not roommates.

Simply put…I’m living and loving.





2 comments on “4.3. Not in Vain.

  1. Pingback: Lazy Sunday #4 | Paula Acton

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