I’m pulling back the curtain to reveal everything about my spiritual journey.
My parents got divorced when I was 6 years old. Things weren’t exactly smooth sailing up to that point, but they were often magic-filled. And while I never really felt safe even when they were together, as time went on, I definitely felt less safe.
Things escalated when I was about 9 years old. My mom regularly called the police with complaints that people were coming into our apartment, living in our attic and rearranging the dust. She also reported that these people were switching out my designer clothes for potato sack clothes. She was on edge and distraught. Most of the police officers were polite enough as they went through the motions of investigating the details she shared with them, and just as quickly as they arrived, they were then gone. There was one officer that pulled me aside to ask me questions about where my father was, and even though I spent summers with him and knew how to contact him, I was too afraid of what would happen to share any information with them. I knew my mom’s behavior wasn’t normal, but it was ‘my normal’. And even though it didn’t feel quite right, it was all I knew.
These incidents went on for most of that year and then one morning I woke up to my mom saying, “You need to go pack a bag, we’re leaving.” I refused, I argued, I pleaded, but none of it mattered. She wouldn’t tell me why we had to leave or where we were going. The car had already been packed and I had no choice but to get in it. We drove all day and into the night before finally stopping at a hotel. And the next morning, my mom asked me to get some ice from the ice machine, which I did. However, when I got back to the room, she wouldn’t let me back in. She would only talk to me through the door and began telling me that I wasn’t her daughter, that I had been cloned and she wasn’t letting a clone in. I broke down crying in the hallway for what seemed like hours before she finally let me in. Immediately upon entry, she closed and locked the door so she cold inspect my scars to prove that I was a clone. She decided I was, and a good one at that. She allowed me to stay inside the room, but I had to kneel next to her while she sat in a chair in front of the window. She then told me that snipers positioned on the roof across the street were going to blow her head off and I would get to watch it. The snipers never came. And eventually, she decided to check out of the hotel. Without addressing a thing that happened, we got on the road again. After a while we began to have fun and I felt relieved, glad to have left the ordeal behind me. The music was on and we were singing and she even let me sit on her lap to drive on the freeway. But it didn’t last long. We stopped at a rest stop, and when I returned to the car, she was convinced I was a clone again. She said she wouldn’t be tricked by ‘them’, and this time she decided to call the police to report me. She called the police, but didn’t want to wait for them to arrive, so she took me directly to the station. The officers there separated us before speaking to us. They were asking me questions and they needed my dad’s phone number. I gave it to them. And even though I hadn’t shared much information with them, a flight was arranged for me to go to my dad’s and my mom wasn’t going with me. I broke down and began crying. I didn’t want to leave my mom. She could see me through a window and when I started crying she came into the room where I was, grabbed me by the arm, and we walked quickly out of the police station. She was muttering about how these people clearly were not going to help us. We made it all the way out to the parking lot and got in the car before anyone saw us. They barely managed to stop her, but they did. They cuffed her and put her in the back of a police car and I was left waiting for a flight to my dad’s, scared and alone.
Life with my dad was very stable. And the time I’d spent alone with my mom was not, it was so unstable, and otherworldly, it often seemed as if it was almost a dream. I couldn’t make sense of it. And if that wasn’t confusing enough, the excitement of the time spent with my mom kind of made the dependable life my dad offered seem like an untenable monotony. I felt safe, but I was bored and dissatisfied, and was mostly just with his girlfriend anyway. I missed my mom, but I was afraid of her. And for a while I wanted nothing to do with her, but as time went on I wanted nothing more than to be with her. It took a few years, but by 14, my dad agreed that I could go spend the summer with her, so I went. Many of the same behaviors were present, but I was more focused on the freedom that was available living with her than what I’d had with my dad. I was only 14, but was growing up fast and I decided that I didn’t really need a mother at all. I didn’t go back to my dad’s at the end of the summer. I managed to stay with her for another 2 years before I decided to leave and go out into the world on my own at 16.
All of these experiences created confusion for me as I began to venture out into the world on my own. I was incredibly sensitive to others even potentially thinking I was weird. I created an image of what a respectable, successful person would look like, and I conformed to that ideal like my life depended upon it. I did not want to be like my mom. I did not want to have anything to do with mental illness, in any way. I was terrified of it. I was the most controlled and in control person you’d have ever met. I was very successful at a very young age. I chose to think of the happy moments only, and I made sure the world saw a joyful woman, surrounded only by really wonderful, successful people. I also ensured that I did not ‘need’ anyone.
I had never addressed any of my emotions from what had happened in my early life, but there came a time when I could no longer keep all of it under control. I found myself in a position where almost every facet of my life was being deconstructed. It was as if some unseen force was pushing me to uncover all of the things I’d pretended didn’t exist. And when push came to shove and I needed to talk to someone, I called my mom. It took me years of talking to my mom and feeling through the experiences that I’d had, but eventually, I got to a place where I not only found compassion for myself, but I also found compassion for my mom.
After making an effort to spend time with my mom as an adult, and having some really open conversations about what her life experience has been like…I came to realize just how terrifying her experiences had been for her. I began to understand how scary it must be to walk through life with no sense of what reality actually is. And I also noticed that she truly did the best she could in what she was experiencing. This provided me the space to soften, forgive, and begin to find different ways of interacting with, and feeling about, my mom.
One of the most important things I’ve learned is to do my best to care for myself first. And then, only when I’m ready to hear it, I can take the time to listen to my mom’s experience too. Sharing your life with someone who has experienced mental illness creates myriad challenges. I used to embrace only the lovely circumstances and dismiss the difficult ones, denying their existence as part of my history. But I’ve learned that only through accepting all of the pieces and parts of it, and coming to better understand everyone’s perspective, am I able to find the compassion necessary for myself, and my mom, that is required to truly heal.
It’s important to remember that everyone here is unique, distinct, and a vital part of this experience. No one here is more valuable or important than another, no matter how they show up. Today I recognize that every challenge we face here is purposefully orchestrated and when we can intentionally turn our focus inward, we can find our hearts and what we actually care about and from there much more becomes available to us. In this instance, I am finding my care for myself in all of this and am also, as a result, finding the ability to expand my care for my mom. And that is simply perfection.
Grimes, Angie. “Momma Tried: A Journey to Resilience & Hope in the Face of Mental Illness” Bold Journey, November 14th 2023, BoldJourney.com
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