The Greatest Blessing

One thing I always hoped was that if/when I had kids they would never have to suffer from mental illness the way I did/have. So when my daughter started exhibiting signs of anxiety when she was only eight my heart hurt so much. I knew what was possibly in store for her. People said she was lucky because she had me, and I could help, but I don’t know what it’s like to have anxiety as an eight-year-old. I don’t know what it’s like to help an eight-year-old who has anxiety. Luckily, it hasn’t been too debilitating for her. She has a lot of fear and I’ve seen her have full-blown panic attacks, but it doesn’t interfere with her every-day life as much as it could. At least not that I’ve seen. Of course, who knows what will happen in the future?

As a parent it’s always hard—probably the hardest thing in the world—to watch your child struggle. Almost a year ago, after a bunch of testing, I was told that my son (six at the time, now seven) was borderline on the autism spectrum. I had wondered, but there were certain traits he had that seemed to conflict with autism, so I simply hoped for the best. However, there are a lot of stereotypes out there about Autism Spectrum Disorder, just like there are about mental illness, and I’ve since learned that those traits of his do fall within the envelope of ASD. My son is incredibly smart, so I don’t worry about him academically, but socially he has so many problems. Whenever I ask him about who he plays with at recess he usually tells me that he plays alone. He doesn’t seem to notice or care—he’s used to going into his own world. But it breaks my heart. I’m sure kids look at him and see that he’s not “normal.” They make assumptions, not really knowing or understanding why he is the way he is. They make assumptions about who is and what he’ll do, not knowing that he really isn’t that way. Truth be told, he’s smart, energetic (maybe a little too much!) and so extremely loving. The other night, he slipped this note he wrote me under my bathroom door as I was getting ready for bed.

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I know some people don’t want to bring children into this crazy world of ours, but children are amazing and strong and resilient. And my children are the greatest blessing God has ever bestowed on me. All I can do is pray that I’ll be able to help them and love them in the way they need. All I can do is hope that they learn and grow and become more from their struggles the way I have with mine.

Am I Enough?

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A Facebook friend recently posed a question about why it’s so hard for us to choose to believe we are enough. At first, all I could think was, “That’s just the way we are as humans.” But as I thought more about it, I realized there was more to it than that. Others responded in a myriad of ways, but for me it has to do with the way other people have treated me.

It’s hard to feel like you’re good enough when so many other people treat you like you’re not. It’s hard to feel that you have worth when so many other people tell you that you don’t.

In the last year and a half I’ve been told multiple times by family members that I’m a horrible, awful, evil person, that I’m a bad mother, that I’m going to hell, that I’m completely incompetent and that I’m wrong. Then there are the men that have been in my life since I got divorced. Every man I’ve dated, liked or been interested in has used me, lied to me, betrayed me, manipulated me, made me feel as though they liked me, cared about me, even loved me, and then rejected me because I wasn’t good enough, perfect enough—I just wasn’t enough.

Now, I know God loves me and cares about me. I know I am of great worth to Him because I am His child. I know I’m of worth to my friends, and I can even confidently say that I’ve made a difference to some of them the way they have made a difference to me. But does that mean I’m enough—in everything? How can I not feel worthless in some way when my own parents and some of my siblings—the people who were supposed to love me the most—hated me so much and felt such a strong need to tell me how bad and wrong I was? How can I not feel that there’s something wrong with me when people who act as if they care about me always end up rejecting me? If it happens over and over again that must mean there has to be something wrong with me, right?

It’s hard not to have those feelings and thoughts. It’s nearly impossible to not lose hope. I have lost hope. And I don’t know how to get it back, or if I even want to. Is it better to live hopeless or to constantly have your hope crushed? I still don’t know.

Still Here

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Yes, I’m still alive. Life has just been incredibly crazy and busy lately. I guess it’s always crazy and busy, especially when you’re a single mom, but it seems like it has been even more so recently. I constantly have ideas swirling in my head about what I want to write, I just haven’t been able to find the motivation to get them on paper – or the computer – yet. So, instead, I’m going to share a poem I wrote about my uncle. For some reason, I was thinking about the poem/him this morning, and I realized it had been fifteen years since he passed away. I wrote it for my mom, so it was really important to me that I get it right, that it be well-written. I remember being so nervous when I gave it to her. Looking at the poem now, I see how it could come off as harsh or judgmental, but after my mom finished reading it she started crying and told me that for not knowing George, I sure knew him well. She shared it with my cousin who I believe had a similar response. So, here goes . . .

Uncle George
(To One I Never Knew)

I can picture your brown skin
from the few times I remember seeing you,
along with the long, braided hair, black,
down to your waist,
trying to recapture and reclaim your heritage however you may.

I never knew you because you never wanted to know me,
just as you never wanted to know your own children or grandchildren,
just as you refused to acknowledge your parents and two sisters.

I never knew you, but I knew about you
and the cigarettes that scorched your lungs,
about the susceptible nature of your Shoshone blood
to the alcohol that slowly and agonizingly
poisoned your kidneys and liver.
That’s how I knew you, Uncle George—a smoker and alcoholic—
the monsters that turned you old before your time
and almost killed you—
           almost.

I can only imagine the final decision to end it all
before the slow and boiling pain consumed you with its viper fangs;
not wanting to imagine the gun put to your head,
your worn, wrinkled fingers pulling the trigger,
           gone at 54.

Neither can you imagine,
one who didn’t know me,
the grief that attacks me
and pushes long dormant tears out of my eyes,
yet wishing somehow you can see
that there is one who agonizes over you,
Uncle George, for one I never knew.