For a long time, I didn’t want to be anything like my Mother; I considered her weak and sniveling, neglectful and a child. I was angry, rightfully so, but I did not want to be like my Mother. I did not want to see her hands when I looked at mine, the way our fingers were fattest near the palm and tapered towards the nail. I did not want to hear her voice spilling from my throat, a southern drawl that melted over the lips like honey. I refused to be anything like her.
But I am; not just in looks, but in spirit. She was not weak or sniveling, neglectful, yes, but not a child. She was a woman ravished by her mental illnesses, taken advantage of, worn down by unworthy lovers, a mother doing her best, or trying to at least. I love 80s pop and rock n roll music because of her. I am an artist because I sat and watched her hands, my hands, delicately and painstakingly create. I always choose a Horror movie over a Rom Com, because she sparked my love of the strange and unusual when she allowed me to see Poltergeist one late night. As I have gotten older, my hands are her hands, especially now that I wear her rings. My voice doesn’t drip with honeysuckle anymore but her words fall out of my mouth on a daily basis.
My Papa called me by her name more often than by my own name, he told me that I was her twin in every way; every word, every gesture, she was all he saw. I wonder if he wished I was her, or she was me.
Maybe it was the headache that I woke up with, the one that didn’t go away after too many Tylenol.
It’s a love hate relationship; it makes me feel better but it killed my mom. Did you know that? The tipping point for her death was the copious amounts of Tylenol she meticulously took for weeks. It destroyed her liver. The doctors estimate a bottle of 500 every two days for 10 days. Add the plethora of meds my sister needed; ADHD pills, pills for her appetite, pills for her Cerebral Palsy… and don’t forget the pills my mom was prescribed for her variety of mental illness. Plus the everyday concoctions found in a home with children; cough syrup, Advil, allergy pills, an inhaler, more Tylenol… it was a mess. But that’s not this story; not all of it at least.
Maybe it was the slowness of the day; keeping my mind from focusing on the here and now. As my day got slower, my mind got busier and my being got heavier. So heavy that by 5pm I’m exhausted. My eyes burn, my body aches, my mouth is dry and my head is still pounding.
Maybe it’s this show on Netflix I’ve been binge watching for hours on end. 13 Reasons Why. It’s about a girl who kills herself and leaves 13 tapes for 13 people, explaining how they had a part in her death. It makes me wonder if there were reasons my mom never told me, never told anyone. Small, seemingly insignificant reasons that added up and were too much. I wonder if I was one of them.
I have forgotten my medication for the last few days. It happens when I’m happy; wrapped in a cocoon of contentment and peace. It’s part of why SSRIs are so hard for people to be consist with, they trick you into thinking you’re ok, better. Today, my chest feels heavy and my heart has the slightest flutter that keeps me on edge. My mind feels empty and busy all at once; small sounds seem louder than normal. The opening of a door, the quiet chatter of my office. Just having to speak to another person seems like too much to my senses. I try to work quickly on a long report that is due this week, I focus so hard and the fluttering of my heart feels like panic and impatience. Even silence feels like too much; it rings in my ears and leaves room for thoughts of wrongness and worry.
“Grounded” at my house meant a collection of unpleasant scenarios; I spent most of my pre teen years sitting cross legged on the top bunk of my shared bed, facing the wall. All day. No books, no interaction with my siblings who were constantly getting me in even more trouble by climbing into my bed and bothering me.
My parents room was less than 12 feet away, across the hall and She watched me like a hawk, waiting for me to somehow find a way to ruin being “grounded”. I received one meal a day, usually a sandwich, maybe leftovers from the dinner everyone else in the house enjoyed. I was allowed one bathroom break, and honestly, with only one glass of water at my one meal, I didn’t have to urinate very often.
You can imagine the boredom. the walls in my bedroom were not terribly exciting and I was not allowed to sleep the day away; I was to “sit and think about what I had done”. Unfortunately, you can only keep a 12 year old awake for so long and I found ways of nodding off without being caught right away. Since my parents room was so close, I would maneuver my bedroom door so that it wasn’t completely open, leaning my forehead against the wall and snoozing; as if I were on a long, cross country flight. That ended quickly. She was convinced I had been pilfering her pain medication, she had missing pills and I couldn’t stay awake. It was obvious.
New ways of inflicting “grounded” on me were conjured up after those accusations.
I won’t bore you with every creative idea that was wrought onto me, but The Corner was by far one of the worst. It had all the components of The Bed, but instead of sitting all day, I stood. Nose pressed into a corner that smelled of weathered wood and sourness, hands clasped behind my back. I was sent to The Corner when I woke up and was sent to bed, not at a normal bedtime, but when She went to bed. I stood for 12+ hours some days in that position; my feet ached, my back cramped, I endured shooting pain in my legs and my arms hurt. I cried alot during that time. I’d squat down and rest the second She walked out of the room, which was rare. I always got caught too, but I need relief.
I’ve always wanted to write about my life; my past life. The one that doesn’t feel like it belongs to me. Not in the way that people grow and change but in the way that it hurts too much. When I do tell stories about my pre-Arizona life, it feels like a story that I am re telling to listeners. I nonchalantly and matter of factly state episodes of abuse, loss, grief and sexual assault without blinking an eye; without feeling that these vignettes are MINE. The looks of shock I get during and after are what snaps me into reality, into realizing how it all sounds to an outsider. They are good stories; meaty stories and I should tell them but how can I write about a life that I’ve dissociated from? How can I write a book about me when I can’t bring myself to really endure that past life again? To tell it would be to relive it and I don’t know that I can carry that burden. Again. Still.
So be warned, it’s a heavy load dear reader, and you do me a service by taking a small piece of it off of my back.