(ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED AT HEART AND HUMANITY)
I remember that appointment as if I’d just stepped out of the room.
During a turbulent point in time, I was in desperate need of professional help. In fact, I’ve always needed it, but wouldn’t admit defeat. I have despised my fearful introspection for as long as I can remember, and it worsened when my parents endured a rampant flood of small problems, which later grew into an overwhelming flow.
My mother’s long-standing alcoholism inflamed my father’s abusive tendencies, resulting in estrangement from both parts.
I was unable to bear the circumstances alone, that had never happened before; an anxiety attack followed another as I recited and regurgitated failure in my head. I couldn’t be my own shelter, for I had lost my sense of myself. Right away, I scheduled a session with a psychiatrist.
“See, each of us has a purpose inside the family,” said the quirky doctor. “You might not believe this kind of stuff, but you might have been someone’s mother in your past life”.
He was visibly anxious, almost as much as I was. “I say that because you seriously want to glue your parents back together, but you can’t carry this responsibility by yourself. That way, you’ll be discarding their purpose. And that’s selfish.”
In one sentence, he had decoded a great percentage of my character. It’s no wonder he was an empath who followed the Spiritist doctrine, as my mother did when she was younger. She had her beliefs taken away from her by force, due to my father’s Christian fanaticism. Her books were shoved away in drawers, then replaced with the Bible. With that, her essence had gone missing.
I have no clue what purpose I came to this world for. Still, I do believe I haven’t landed here by chance.
Somewhere far from here, heaven knows how long ago, we might have been cautiously selected to partake in specific lives. That may be the reason families differ from one another: a collective exchange of peculiarities never ceases to take place. Knowledge is transferred. The gaps are filled.
That day, I left the appointment with a whirl of questions and a thumping heart. My curiosity over the spiritual gathering of families has always been present, but I couldn’t say a word. Mother and I never spoke about that, so as to avoid heated arguments in case my father was eavesdropping.
We never knew what his next measure would entail.
A long overdue mental breakdown about the marriage was enough to lock my mother up in a psychiatric hospital so she could “unwind” from the accumulated stress. She spent six full months there. Years ago, this would have been a nightmare, owing to my dependence on her. An hour or two of unannounced absence would be a trigger for overthinking catastrophic scenarios and going over silent prayers.
I grew accustomed to hearing her filtered voice over the phone for a restricted amount of time. Day after day, by degrees we began to fall apart, which was doing more good than harm. I would no longer fret over her coming home safely, nor her eating habits. She was safe there, away from me.
One thing avoided was “I love you”. There’s something ruinous about it. Perhaps my fixation for dramatic cinema wasn’t beneficial since the cinematic “I love yous” oftentimes have disastrous consequences. From thoughts of sad parting to death, superstition stole my sensibility.
“Why can’t I have a decent family?”
I would often hold on to that thought. Had I not met my purpose? Had my mother not met hers? Whatever the answer, I felt like I was doing a terrible job. I hung onto mantras such as “everything happens for a reason”, yet the reason was unknown.
Even so, I shouldn’t have tortured myself trying to pinpoint what I was soon to discover. The answer was on its way, slowly but surely.
After her discharge from the hospital, everything seemed oddly well between my parents. Father fought for her through thick and thin despite their stormy past. But Mother wasn’t the same anymore.
A heavy antidepressant treatment ironically sucked the joy out of her. From a slurry and violent mess to an angst-ridden lady, the contrast was striking. She required company even during the most mundane of morning strolls and couldn’t sleep before the bathroom lights were on to comfort her.
For months on end, getting used to her new personality was brutal. I had no recollection of how my real mother used to be, and that kindled my frustration. Now, she was just childlike, and fearful, and…
She was me. She was me a few years ago, that coy child who used to hide from strangers behind her legs. But she was me.
That nervous and shaky little girl who’s cradled in my soul to this very day. I detested myself, therefore I’d detest her, as well. But where would she hide? She wasn’t little anymore, I couldn’t protect her. I couldn’t even protect myself.
All it took was a brief moment for the truth to dawn: we have switched roles for a while. I would be cynical, too, if this hadn’t come to pass. Taking care of my mother, someone who has looked after me for twenty long years would be a challenging trial. It still is.
In my mind, I’ve already lost her to time, now I’m watching her grow as she braves through the harsh treatment. My daughter. My long lost daughter, whom I love so dearly.
As I write this, my mother is spending a few weeks at my grandmother’s house. I believe she’s making up to the years wasted on bitterness and contempt throughout an exhausting and familiar relationship with her parents. Now, in a vulnerable state, she has shrunk back into who she used to be, a girl in need of a mother’s embrace.
An embrace that could heal any malady.