The Dolphin and the Sea

 

I never intended to be your disciple
I never intended to repeat your strife
The time has come to break the cycle
It is time for me to separate from your life
Though your time on earth has ended
You are still a part of me
You and I are spirits kindred
As the dolphin and the sea

 

On Halloween these words came back to me. They are part of a much longer poem I wrote in early 1992. I wrote them a few months before my 23rd birthday, a short while before the first of my psychological and emotional breakdowns. I wrote it when I still believed my mom had committed suicide eleven years before.

I don’t know why I always forget why this time of year is full of depression triggers for me. I’ve gotten into the habit of attributing it to the change in seasons, the increasing cold and darkness and how it affects the symptoms of both the fibromyalgia and the depression itself. However, I think the truth is I’ve never fully come to terms with my mother’s death and her life leading up to it, even though I have tried.

My mom would have been 60 on October 19th. She died within a week or two, on one side or another of her birthday in 1981, the year I turned 12.

The phone call came on a Sunday night. Invasion of The Body Snatchers, with Donald Sutherland, was on the television.

I think I probably acted like I had been body snatched.

I kind of remember that my aunt and her sister (my step-grandmother) were wailing and crying. I know my uncle headed into action. He left to drive to Texas and get my grandma. I don’t remember feeling much of anything. I’m pretty sure I put on a show of crying because I knew if I didn’t they would all think something was wrong with me and I had no desire to get put back into therapy or group counseling, like I’d had to go through after I had told about the molestation by my stepdad when I was ten.

It was probably a year and a half before I cried for real. Even then, I don’t think it was grief for her, but more grief for me and the fact I had faced off with someone who had been a friend at the time I found out she’d killed herself, then used that information to publicly lash out at me after the friendship ended.

As a child I don’t think I was very attached or bonded to her or anyone else for that matter (I talked some about that here). I’m pretty sure it’s because she had also been a teen mom who had given up on herself and the dreams and goals she’d had for herself and her life. My knowledge of family history is pretty sparse, but I know my grandpa was an alcoholic and my grandmother was a bitter, passive-aggressive person. I’m pretty sure there was domestic violence (I heard grandma pulled a gun on grandpa once). So her life growing up had to have factored into our life together. Whatever the reason, we never really had a close connection.

That is until the day I wrote the poem.

That morning, another Sunday, (I’m starting to sense that Sundays aren’t my best days), I woke up and freaked out when I looked into the bathroom mirror. The reflection looking back at me wasn’t my own. It was hers. It was the same weary, worn, and sorrowful face I can still vaguely remember seeing in a photo taken when I was five.

At least I think I remember seeing 1974 in blue ink on the white bordered bottom of the Polaroid photo. I was in a red dress, smile on my face, fingers clasped with my hands open and facing down, brown-black hair hanging straight, and a little headband sweeping my bangs back. I wasn’t looking at the camera. I was looking up toward my mom. She stood between me and a Christmas tree, wearing a light colored sweater and colored slacks. Her hair was kind of floaty/flyaway around her face. She had a slight smile, but it didn’t move the rest of her face and her eyes were so sad.

I didn’t see her face superimposed over mine that morning, I saw it instead of mine. I quietly freaked out and spent the rest of the day writing that poem and trying to exorcise her ghost inside of me.

A short while later I had my meltdown. I was living with the pregnant roommate from hell. “No offense, Kina, but I’m giving this monster up for adoption because I don’t want to be like you.” She reminded me a bit of Jennifer Jason Leigh‘s character in Single White Female. Not the whole murderous, dopplegang your life bit, but in looks and some mannerisms. She did start dating the nice guy I broke up with. That was weird and more than a little awkward.

I was taking 18 credit hours of college classes and working three different work-study jobs. My son was five years old and basically living at his babysitter’s during the week because I didn’t have a car or know how to drive and it was about a two hour trip, one-way, on the bus to get him to her or pick him up.

I got sick and missed a week of school just before mid-terms. I was in a messed up triangle of a relationship with a couple of fellow student co-workers. I was carrying heaps of mommy guilt and I didn’t have any family or friends I felt I could turn to. Mobile phones were only for the well-to-do and we couldn’t even afford a landline, so I couldn’t call anyone.

I tried anyway. I bundled up and fought the cold winds to walk to the bar down the block from our apartment complex to use the pay phone and called the guy in the relationship. Guess what? It was a Sunday night. He answered. I asked if he could come over, but didn’t tell him anything was wrong. I needed him to know that something was wrong, but felt so damn pathetic and weak, I couldn’t say the words. So, we hung up and I trudged home.

I almost took my life. I had everything set for me to be gone. I had a God moment that night. From somewhere inside me, a voice I didn’t recognize spoke and told me I did not want to do this and abandon my son, the way I had been abandoned. It also reminded me that there were other people in my life who cared about me and would be hurt and angry if I made that choice, even if none of them were there in that moment.

I walked away from my perfectly set scene and knocked on the roommate’s door. I cried and confessed what I had been about to do. She called her boyfriend, my ex, and he showed up with a friend and a fifth of Tequila. I woke up in my bathtub, wrapped in a blanket the next day. I cleaned myself up, walked down to the college and withdrew from school. It was one of the hardest and easiest things I felt I’d ever done.

I went through the motions of healing and sought therapy and medication because I knew I would have to document why I should be trusted with financial aid again. But, I didn’t really accomplish much or do the work. Instead I went dancing and drinking and eventually hooked up with a guy who seemed to have it together. Other than the fact we didn’t go out together, just smoked weed, stayed in and had sex. Nine months after I didn’t die I found out I was pregnant again, but that’s another story.

The point is I was trying so hard to not be like my mom and make different choices than she did, but I still wound up as the emotionally unstable, detached and unavailable mom. I think I’ve blamed her and maybe even hated her, meaning I’ve blamed me and hated those parts of me that are like her.

I have had so many times as an adult that I needed and wanted a mom to turn to for advice, help, a shoulder to cry on, or even just a hug. I miss having a mom.

A couple of years ago I reconnected with a high school friend who had moved to where my mom died. She helped me obtain the police and coroner’s reports from when my mom died. I did this because I realized I had never known the date she died, where she died or what had happened to her body. I never attended a memorial service and no one ever talked to me about her, at least when I was young.

At one point, a year or so before that first meltdown, I did find out that when my uncle arrived in Texas, after driving from Oregon, he found that the only “clean-up” that had been done was my mother’s body removed. My grandmother had found her and had continued to stay there until he arrived. This explained some of my grandmother’s brand of crazy in her later years.

When I read through the reports a couple of things were very clear. No one involved in the investigation checked their facts. Basically, someone decided that a crazy, depressed woman had shot herself, point blank between the eyes. Case closed.

It’s weird that I kind of feel better that it’s marginally possible that she didn’t commit suicide and it was a case where her case wasn’t high profile or worthy enough of a thorough investigation and she was just written off. Sad, really.

Either way, she had fewer supports than I did and while there is still a lot of stigma associated with depression and other psychological disorders and diseases, there are more resources available. It boils down to the same thing, she was a victim in her life and succumbed to the depression or to the results of a bad relationship and didn’t get her chance to grow beyond that stage in her life.

I have struggled to move beyond being the victim in my life. Most of the time I feel like I have such a long way to go. However, yesterday a distant relative saw the new profile picture I took and told me how much I look like my mom. I realized I have lived 14 years longer than she did. I got to watch two of my children reach adulthood. I am able to work through the issues that drive my depression and have the support and encouragement of others to help me through. However difficult and dysfunctional my life is or has been, I have at least had the chance to live it in a way she never had the chance to.

Gratitude Day 10
I am thankful for modern technology and social media. The ability to connect and be in community with distant people has been instrumental in my healing and recovery process: Facebook, WordPress, and an online recovery resource, The Recovery Group with online meetings have been invaluable to me.

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16 comments

  1. Kina, I don’t know if you realize how strong you really are. Each time you know you are about to do something really harmful you reach out and try to get the help you need. You’ve gone through so much, and continue to, but you keep trying. Make sure to give yourself credit for trying to get the help you need and to be the person you want to be.

    My therapist talks to me about accepting the coping techniques I learned as a child as positive things. They were the best I could come up with at the time and they helped me through the horrors of abuse. Now as an adult I can work on learning better tools but not feel bad/stupid for doing the best I could in the past with what I had and where I was. It has helped me in getting over some of my past mistakes.

    My heart goes out to you.

    Like

    1. Tasha,
      Thank you s much for sharing. My coping skills seemed to be detachment, rationalization, and avoidance – usually by taking control and “fixing” whatever problem or situation arose. I never learned how to address and resolve the underlying cause of the problems or to recognize what those are.

      I think you are correct about the probability that I hold these things against myself. Something to address with my new therapist.

      Be well,
      Kina

      Like

  2. That’s a lot of unresolved bad juju there, Kina. I’ve got my own devils, but nothing quite this powerful. Thank you for sharing. I can’t imagine the strength that took, much less the strength it takes to live with it. I said before that knowing what you’re up against is half the battle, and your battle is pretty big. But I have faith that you can win against this. You’ve already taken a lot of the necessary steps, including reaching out to us. I really hope that you find some way to get professional therapy. I know how difficult it is to deal with things like this without help.

    Have you considered checking out any local colleges to see if they have anything you qualify for? When I did my therapy, I was a student, so I got it for free. And your church might offer spiritual counseling. I know these are probably things you’ve considered, but I’m one of those people who feels the need to take care of everyone.

    Like

    1. Mary,
      I actually have a therapist I am going to get a chance to work through this stuff with. I am going to see her on Thursday. She works with the child and family services agency we got Luna evaluated and connected to a couple of months ago. We have agreed that Luna is getting the supports she needs and that many of the issues are from me needing help coping with the depression and deep wounds from my past and recent history.

      I have done some spiritual counseling, but frequently have come out the other side of it feeling as though I’m too damaged and at fault for failing to “get better.”

      Things are looking up.

      Be well,
      Kina

      Like

      1. That is excellent! Never, ever, ever think that you are too damaged to heal. If you were, you wouldn’t be here, literally; you would not have survived this long. You’ve already come a long, long way.

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  3. Wow sorry to hear about the whirlwind of emotions/events there. Though “case closed”, do you feel you’d rather it have been a situation where foul play was involved over the torment of a woman who took her own life?

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    1. I don’t think “preference” comes into play. The part of me that still feels like that abandoned little girl feels a slight comfort at the thought that, just maybe, mom didn’t mean or choose to leave me for good and it was someone else’s choice or doing.

      Like

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