Approach to Difficult Past

As I’ve been reaching out more, I realize that some good people in my life are gone.

I have fond memories of car rides with my grandmother to visit my great-grandmother. I would sit quietly and observe how they interacted, sometimes I’d even ask questions for clarification.

They would share their experiences and sometimes emotions. Mom-Mom would listen to her mother and always respond compassionately, no matter how negative she’d be.

If her mom showed frustration, she’d show understanding. If her mom was angry, she’d be tender. If her mom was sad, she’d be there to help lighten the burden.

I practiced this in my own life, with my own mom. 

There was a turning point after a few years of being institutionalized, where I realized that my mom had never responded to my needs with love. 

I began listening more to what she was saying. She often spoke ill of me to others. By this time, she was working on her second divorce, and I was a huge part of her sob story at local bars.

There was anger, confusion, and hurt, from realizing she had never been on my side. Even in childhood, I was made to feel as though her circumstances were my fault. No decent man would date a single mother, she’d say. She couldn’t go to college, because she had to look after me and she had to work dead end jobs so she could support me. I believed all of this for a long time.

When I was institutionalized, it was because my mom didn’t know what to do with me. Or so I thought.

The truth is, she is incapable of thinking of anyone other than herself. She’s never been motherly. She doesn’t know how to have a healthy relationship with another person, in any capacity. She just didn’t want to deal with my reaction to her toxic relationships, addiction, and cruelty. 

She had it ingrained in me since I was very young, that I was the problem. My feelings, thoughts, and experiences have always been invalidated by her.

So when I opened up to the therapist, she would just deny everything, and point at my emotions as being the problem. She had the staff at the institutions convinced that I was just spoiled and that I was lying for attention.

Rather than getting the help I needed, I was misdiagnosed, mismedicated, and spent much of my adolescence inpatient or in partial hospitalization programs.

I was dehumanized regularly. Strip searches after intake assessment, four point restraints used daily for months on end, being drugged to the point of pissing myself at night and being unable to follow even simple conversations and instructions. 

My hair was falling out, I had gained 100 lbs, all I could do was eat and sleep. I was totally dead inside for years like this. 

Rather than developing skills to live in the real world, I was just trying to survive each day. I can’t even describe the amount of sadness and loneliness I endured during this period of my life. It was like my soul was being murdered in slow motion and there was nothing I could do about it. I could only comply or be made to comply.

On my 18th Birthday, I had a nice party with family. All of the people I cared about were there: my half sister, half brother, cousin, and grandmother. 

Before the party, I had decided that this was going to be my last gathering. I was done suffering and done being a burden, and clearly no medication was helping. I had been on roughly 35 different psych meds at this point.

I made sure to spend time with each person and have a genuinely good time. I wanted a happy memory for them to remember me by.

That night, I wrote a suicide note and I overdosed on my psych meds and cut my wrists.

I was resuscitated, was in a brief coma, and awoke in the ICU.

Every cell in my body was writhing with pain. I had been in complete peace when I was unconscious, only to discover I was still among the living.

My mom visited me in the hospital to tell me that I had ruined her life and I needed to find another place to live. 

Before she even gave me a chance to say anything, she walked out that door.

I stood to call after her, and wound up getting my face smashed into the floor by a rent-a-cop. 

I spent the next few months at the state psychiatric hospital. They actually didn’t restrain me there, so I am happy I can say that much.

There were people I met throughout my hospitalizations who tried to tell me I wasn’t crazy. There was the nurse who pointed out I had many signs of early childhood abuse. There was the occupational therapist who said I wasn’t crazy, just fucked up from circumstances. The mental health worker who knew I just needed to blow off steam and would let me without calling a code.

It wasn’t until I moved out, that I was able to start sorting my mom’s problems from my problems.

As it turns out, I was just reacting in a normal way to bad circumstances all along. None of the doctors saw that, because they were treating symptoms and not me as a human being.

I’ve been very lucky in that a few people went out of their way to let me know I’m not crazy. I didn’t take it in then, but through a lot of hard work, and the help of a couple of great therapists, I’ve been able to rediscover myself.

So rather than focusing just on the bad things, I am taking in that there are good people who care. I’m taking it in that I am not broken beyond repair. And I’m also taking in the sadness and the anger, because there is so much that I’ve held in my whole life.

I feel like this is a wholesome approach to look at Life, to accept who I am, and where I am right now. To be well. And just to be.

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