So, I don’t know what it is with letters right now. I’ve written to Lady Gaga, Kim Kardashian ( 🙄 ) and Robin Williams lately, but now I’m writing to the most important person ever…you.
Anyhoot, I know I could have sent this to you directly but you know how important education is to me (even though you didn’t complete the 2 classes you need to get your degree…we’re still not done discussing that, SWEETIE 😒) and I wanted other mentally ill mothers to read what I’m going to say too. I know you won’t mind since you got such a rockin’ birthday present this year…just sayin’ 😬.
Baby, I know it wasn’t easy having a mentally ill mom. You can deny that all you want and say it never affected you but I’m not stupid (even though from 13-20 you thought I was) and I know it did. You always tell me what a great ma I am and I think I remember every time you’ve ever said it because that’s how much it means to me. But I’m going to let you in on a little secret: I don’t believe you. (I also don’t believe you didn’t drink before you were 21…and I’m pretty sure I’m right 😳).
I think I was a good mom…better than some but worse than others. I do know I was the kind of mom that was a go-getter and worked hard to give you the life I wanted you to have. I didn’t always succeed though…not by a long shot.
You know how freaking happy (I won’t cuss in this…gramma would yell at me for a week and you know how screechy her voice is 😐) I was when you were born, but I was scared as hell too. There were so many times in my life that I didn’t understand myself…didn’t understand what I was feeling, or why I was doing the impulsive things I did so often, or why my head was filled with so much noise it was sometimes hard to hear anything over the din, or why I’d run like a motor one day and then crash the next. My Lord (yes, I know you don’t believe in God but I’m going to change that come hell or freaking high water 😈), how was I ever going to know what you needed and felt when I was so lost myself? I was petrified. *And a little secret? So was your dad…but he’ll never admit it.
Anyhoot, there were times in my life when I didn’t know if I could take care of myself… times when if grandma and your great grandparents (who would have totally adored you) hadn’t of, I don’t know where I’d be right now. Then when I was preggy, I started to wonder if I’d be able to cope with everything a ma has to do and I was so scared I might not be able to take care of you. But I did. And I loved it (even changing your little diapers…except when your dad would feed you spinach and then I would have paid anyone a thousand bucks to take that over for an hour or so 😲. And yes, I know it’s not ladylike to say ‘bucks’).
You were so patient with me and even when I did mess up, like when I would try to shove rice cereal down your gullet when you were crying, you didn’t care. You were such an easy going baby (until you got colic and I thought your dad was going to go as nutsy as I already was, but luckily you out-grew that in 4 of the longest months I’ve ever experienced in my life 🤨) and exactly what I needed. It’s funny how you spend 9 months wondering ‘who’ you are going to get, and then no matter what, you get exactly who you wanted. Period.
I don’t think people realize how those of us with mental illness struggle so much with parenting. Obviously, you know how sensitive I am. How impulsive. How much I ruminate. How much I question myself. How deeply I feel guilt. How quickly I assume blame. How I feel so much empathy for others that it can be overwhelming. How I feel like I have to ‘do’ and ‘give’ for anyone to love me. How I’m either busy busy busy or so down I’m pretty much camped out on the couch for a period of time. Of course you know all of this now, but didn’t for all your growing up years. Remember when you came home that one day after being bullied in the 2nd grade? I was distraught. Your pain was my pain and I wanted to wrap you in a blankie, tuck Barney under your arm, and put you in a plastic bubble with me. Seeing you hurt was the worst thing imaginable. Your pain always became my pain and that’s why I often over-reacted to things you experienced, which is pretty ‘normal’ for those of us with bipolar.
When I made wrong decisions, I’d beat myself up for days and days even though you forgot about it within hours. When you brought home a bad grade (sigh…) or did something you knew you shouldn’t have, I blamed myself. It was because of me that these things happened. I was to blame. Yes, I know you would tell me that it was YOUR fault…your decisions…your choices. But I still felt the culpability began and ended right here. That’s why I never had the heart to really punish you (actually, I can think of VERY little you ever did to warrant punishment…you really were, and are, a great kid 😀).
I think one of the hardest things I had to overcome as a mom was dealing with school things. The education stuff was a cinch, but the ‘mommy one-upping’ stuff stung. You know I don’t have real friends. That I have a pissy (sorry, ma) track record for relationships. That I just don’t feel like I fit in because I truly am different from most everyone else. It was so tough seeing the other moms cluster together at Scout meetings or during PTA nights while I felt like I was on the fringe. I wanted to be more comfortable in being a part of all of this. I wanted you to have just a regular ole mom. Instead, you got me. *BTW: no exchanges.
My biggest failures with you was this: I didn’t try hard enough to be ‘normal’ and I didn’t summon up enough courage to eventually say I wasn’t. I didn’t want to admit that something was very wrong with me. I couldn’t face it. I wanted to be like the mama’s I saw on TV growing up like Carol Brady and Shirley Partridge (both can singe really well so we do have that in common 🙄). I think I pretended adequately for quite a long time though; I certainly had your dad fooled (not too hard to do…) and even though I’d always say I’m FINE (!) when gramma would ask me, she knew I was lying. But, she wanted me to be fine so badly that she forced herself to believe I was telling the truth. I can understand that since I was doing the same.
So I wrote off my depression as just ‘too much stress’ and my manic phases were channeled into making sure the house and the yard were perfect. It was just “Kristi” being “Kristi”…no big deal. “She’s just that way.” But, it’s why I push you to talk to me when I see you aren’t feeling OK…I just need to know what’s bothering you in case it’s something serious we need to deal with. I don’t want you to pretend or put on a mask like I did for so long. I want you to be real with me, and I’ll support you…no matter what. One of my biggest fears is that I might have passed something down to you and I pray every night I didn’t. However, if God Forbid you should ever develop a mental health issue, it’s your dad’s fault. K? 😏
Leaving your dad and agreeing to a divorce was the stupidest, most impulsive thing I’ve ever ever done in my entire life. It went against everything I had tried to do for 13 years: give you a solid family foundation. Your dad and I were having issues…I know you’re aware of that. But the manic phase I was in for quite a time took over and my decision making sucked big time. I know it’s so hard for you to understand what it’s like to ruminate like I do, but I will never…ever…forgive myself for putting you through a divorce. I always swore I wouldn’t. I feel like I took away something of your teenage years by making you live between 2 houses. That isn’t easy…I know that from my own experience.
I think I want to be perfect for you because that’s actually how I see you. Yes, us mamas have rose-colored glasses and it’s very hard to see you any other way. So, I want to take on any dragons that threaten you and give you all I possibly can to make your life better. It’s so hard to do that though. My own monsters take a lot of work themselves and because of bad financial decisions, I can’t give you what I wish I could. I just feel so less than as a ma. Like you were gypped. Like I was the clearance ma no other angel in heaven wanted until you felt sorry for me and plopped yourself into my lap (it was an excruciating ‘plop’ by the way…16 hours worth…just sayin’ 🙃).
I get so scared when I think about how bipolar worsens as a person ages. Depression increases…dementia is common…self-harm can be an issue…and suicide is something that is never fully out of the mind of someone with bipolar. When I think about these things, I can’t help but cry. I’m YOUR ma. My job is to take care of you whether you’re 10 or 30. I never want you to have to take care of me. It shames me to think that could happen one day.
Actually, just being mentally ill shames me. I know it sounds crazy (go figure 🙄) but there are so many times in my life I feel like I had to have done something horrible to be given this particular disease. And, had I not done what ever ‘thing’ that was, you would have gotten the healthy ma you deserve. It pains me to think of that.
I know your attention span is waning because you’re impatient like me, but I just want you to know this: I’m so very sorry for how my illness has affected you all of these years. I know I’ve embarrassed you. I know I’ve made mistakes with you. I know I do things that are outside your realm of comprehension. I know I cry too much and talk too much and worry too much and need too much. And I’m so sorry for that. Don’t say that an apology isn’t necessary. I’m the ma…and I know best (except in the case of gramma where I know best there too…just sayin’ 🤨).
This fucking (OK, I said it…I’ll record what ma says to me so you can hear 🤯) disorder has guided me into some hellish places over the years. Places I pray you will never ever see. But for some reason, God gave me you. You. The light that’s always there…shining like the star you are. Thanks for that, Porkchop.