Photo by Aimee Vogelsang on Unsplash

Childhood trauma is a thing I spent many, many years addressing and ultimately, resolving. It was an extremely painful process. In the depths of my pain, I lost many friendships. I lost so much, but I gained some things, too. A sense of self — a self that was someone I could live with, not someone I hated. I changed so that I didn’t hate myself anymore.

When a parent isn’t there — be it in your childhood or as an adult — because they have decided someone else is more important or because they struggle with addiction or whatever, it is very hard. And if you are privileged and have access to mental health care like I do, you might have the opportunity to address it and move on with your life, like I did.

I told myself I wouldn’t be angry with my mother anymore for what she did to me, for the positions she put me in as a child, for the lies she told me. I’m old enough now to know when she’s lying, and I told myself I wouldn’t scream at her like I wanted to and I would just nod when she spoke. I would let her back in to my life after she disappeared for months at a time. I told myself I wouldn’t let it bother me, but it did. It totally did.

And then she had a stroke due to the things she was addicted to. And I was there. I was there, day and night, by her side. Watching her being unable to communicate. It was expected of me from my family, you know, being the oldest. But why? Why should I be there when she has never been there? But I was. Because I’m a good daughter, I guess? I don’t know the answer, honestly I don’t.

When I got pregnant my mother was very happy. She was very much the doting mother that every daughter would want. She bought things for the baby and got me a yellow blanket that says “Best Mom Ever”. She was very sad that I miscarried. She wants so badly for me to be pregnant again; it’s all she ever talks about.

She has been around, consistently, with the same phone number for about three years, since her stroke. She hasn’t disappeared or told lies. She called me a lot — well, a lot more than she used to. And it’s been nice, despite the fact that her brain has been impacted by all of the substances over the last 40 years and can’t communicate that well. She’s not my sharp, intelligent mother anymore. But it’s okay. She’s there.

It was okay. She was there.

My younger brother — who has two parents who have abandoned him, not one, like me — called me a couple weeks ago to tell me my mother left a note about an emergency with her brothers. Next to the note was her phone.

We knew it wasn’t an emergency. Her brothers are the lowest of people — we don’t give them our addresses because we don’t want them to know where we live. Who knows what they would do.

We didn’t know where our mother was for several days, which was nothing new; we’re used to not hearing from her for months, years sometimes. We found out where she was staying, eventually — somewhere with her brothers. We knew she wasn’t clean anymore. If she was with them, she wasn’t clean.

When she had the stroke, the doctor told us that if she did so much as smoke a cigarette, the next time she had a stroke, she would be a vegetable. She knows this.

Throughout these days of not knowing where she was, I wasn’t really worried. Just disappointed. I think in a way I had forgiven my mother because she was really trying for three years, trying to be my mom, and then she just…stopped doing that. Again. And I feel like I’m reliving everything I have put behind me. Both my younger brother and I feel this way. Reliving a childhood that was so traumatizing, it is never shared. Not among family, not anywhere or to anyone. I feel like I never want to speak to her again. Not her, not my uncles, not anyone on that side of the family, because for days so many people knew where my mom was and didn’t call me. They still haven’t. The only person who has kept me in mind is my brother, who is younger than me.

And I understand that addiction is a disease, I do. But that does not mean I have to sacrifice my well being for someone who would not even think twice about tossing me aside.

I saw a tweet today that said that we don’t have to keep toxic family members in our lives. And I think that’s true. I think that’s true for family members, friendships, relationships, whatever. Erase these people from your lives before they do to you what they already did to you. No one should live in the same trauma twice, or a hundred times. Once is more than enough.

Author of Paper Souls. Stigma Fighters CEO & Co-Founder. I really love my cats, okay.