It All Starts with Me.
God, I can't remember the last time I sat down to actually write anything for this site. I've been busy and tired, and I've been bogged down by my mental illnesses. Which is not really a unique situation, to be frank.
Want me to be real for about half a page or so? I'm having a really hard time. This year will make five years since my mom's death, and anyone who's read my work knows my relationship with her was um...really not great lol.
But because I'll never have any real closure on what all happened between us, I'm basing a book on our relationship and exploring what all went on and how the characters will deal with it in a way that my mother and I didn't. I've spent the past several days studying her blogs from years ago, and I feel so raw and hollowed out right now.
Reading things that she's told me before, but that I didn't have the maturity to really acknowledge at the time, and trying to apply them to this book that is already going to strip me naked to the world is fucking terrifying. And there's no one in my life I can talk about this to. Therapy is bitchin expensive, and my siblings (the only ones who can understand what it's like losing this woman from the perspective of one of her children) refuse to acknowledge that there was anything bad about her at all. But I can't really blame them for that, because for these past few years, I refused to acknowledge anything good about her.
Anyway, I'm just frustrated because I've teared up in a public Starbucks about five times in the two hours that I've been here, and I'm terrified that if I write this book, the little family that I've kept in contact with will turn away from me because I don't want to pretend that my mother was this amazing angel.
But I need to tell this story. I need to acknowledge both the good and the bad in my mom. I need to acknowledge what I did wrong and what I did right in regards to my relationship with her. I need to close this chapter and walk into the rest of my life with my head held high and the will to grow and be better, rather than stagnate and wonder why nothing ever changes.
Much of my life has been shaped by shame. Be it because of the abuse I went through, because my mother insisted that everything about me was shameful, or because I just didn't (and often still don't) like what I see in the mirror. My family and bullies have conditioned me to look at myself as if I'm something to mock or to be embarrassed about. I was recently hospitalized because of mental illness, having two mood disorders and two anxiety disorders. Seeing myself celebrating pride in who I've become is often rather difficult.
I refuse to continue to let shame rule my life, though. I have a long way to go before I'm the person I want to be, but when I look at how far I've come, I know that I have a place among the Unashamed - be it at Pride or elsewhere.
It took me until I was twenty years old to realize that I'm sapphic. It took two more years to realize that I'm a lesbian. The reason I couldn't commit to men wasn't because I was "damaged goods" (as certain members of my family referred to me as when they thought I couldn't hear them), but because I'm simply not wired to be romantically or sexually involved with a man. I'm not damaged. There's no shame in loving other women as people believe I should love a man. I wish I realized this before I was an adult, but I can't change the past.
In this stream of consciousness, I hope to reach other people like me. People who've had their head down out of fear - be it fear of the unknown in identifying as something you don't completely understand yet, fear of how people will treat you, fear of how your identity fits into other parts of yourself (culture, religion, etc.), I know it's a lot. It's downright terrifying.
But I've found that being able to express more of myself after pushing through those fears has been very rewarding. As I've said, I'm not where I want to be. But I'm a few steps farther than I was three years ago, when I thought I was straight. Embracing yourself is difficult and often requires sacrifice, but it can also bring rewards. And Pride is what you make it. To me, it's about standing among the Unashamed. Standing tall, and telling the world that despite what it throws at me, I am worth fighting for. I have the right to carve a place and make a difference, even if it's only a personal difference.
You have the power to carve out your place and to fight for yourself. You have the power to live your life in a way that's fulfilling to you. You have the power to be Unashamed.
For a time, I loved my mother more than I loved anyone or anything else in the world. I was her ride or die. I told her everything that happened in my life, and I thought that we had secrets just between us. I thought our bond was unlike any other. I fondly remember all the times we'd spontaneously get up at two or three in the morning and we'd go to Taco Bell in Picayune (twenty minutes away from our town, Poplarville), singing Disney songs or just sitting in comfortable silence. I remember reading to her while she was in the hospital, sharing my poetry with her, and practicing French horn for hours upon hours just because she wanted to hear it. I remember all the times we rode roller coasters and we sat in the back, because she swore up and down that those were the best seats. They're some of the best memories in my childhood.
But they're not the full story. I remember being three or four years old and wanting to be a ballerina, because they were so graceful and beautiful. She bluntly told me that I would never be one, because no one would want to dance with a fat ballerina. I remember being younger than ten, wanting to be a singer. I had even gotten on a stage at some point and sang some song that I'd made up on the spot in front of a crowd of people. Not so long after, my mother had told me to stop embarrassing myself, because I would never have a pretty singing voice. Any confidence I had when performing turned into anxiety attacks whenever I'd have to do it in front of a crowd. I was twelve when I started developing breasts; they jumped from barely noticeable to double Ds in the course of a summer. She didn't allow me to run anymore and cruelly teased me with the idea that I'd be raped if I drew too much attention with them. There were so many times when I would beg for counseling because her father had abused me, and she would only promise that I'd get it, but later would yell at me for selfishly bugging her when I'd ask for it again. She went behind my back and lied to my dad and step mom that I was getting counseling, but they shouldn't ask about it because I didn't want to talk about it.
I loved my mother deeply and loyally. At eighteen, I was presented with the opportunity to leave her behind for a healthier home in Texas. I was going to take it, because I was so sick of letting her manipulate and belittle me. But when the time came to gather my things and go...I couldn't. I couldn't leave her. I needed her as much as she needed me. My dad wasn't mad, but he was worried that I was making a decision that would ultimately hurt me more than help me. He told me to call if I changed my mind, and that he'd come get me. I appreciated it.
My mother died in October of 2015 and I went off the deep end. I took so many risks that had I been any unluckier, I wouldn't be writing this right now. I don't even remember most of the ten months after she died. I just know I didn't come to my senses until a week after my breast reduction. There was no point in staying in Mississippi, anymore. Staying in toxic households would only push me deeper and deeper into grief and depression.
As much as I loved my mother and the home that she had made for me throughout my childhood, I was hurting and I needed to heal. I needed to let go. So, I left for Texas with my step mother. I got counseling, started writing again, got a job, and went back to school. I'm continuing to move forward.
To be honest, I still love my mother deeply. But in that love for her, I hold her accountable for every time she lied to me, gaslit me, and belittled me. Even though she's dead and it seems pointless, I hold her accountable because there were too many years when I would let her treat me like a doormat without even thinking of blaming her. I know better now, because I am an adult and capable of taking responsibility for my actions. I am determined to be not only better than her, but better than what she expected of me. Loving her still hurts, but the scars are healing and I am growing.
It was a slow build.
Years of trauma closing in
Behind the smile
And the wide, bright eyes.
Pillows soaked with tears,
I was at a precipice.
Shatter or move forward.
A movie with a mother sobbing over
Her dead son,
The flood gates collapsed.
Do or die.
I wrote a letter to end all contact
With an abuser.
Ran to my parents' room,
And showed them my suicide letter,
A poem about a suicidal girl,
And the letter to the abuser.
I expected help.
I expected effort.
I expected support.
I was reprimanded,
Slapped with a bible verse
And thirty minute devotional,
And sent to bed.
That's when it happened.
Vulnerability isn't an option;
If I ever wanted to heal,
Then I'd have to do it alone.
It’s Only You
I'm not saying put yourself in a position where you'd face harm if you were to come out. I can't offer specific tips, because every situation is different. Had I come out when I realized my attraction to other women, I'd have had to find a new place to live. Growing up, I was bullied harshly because of rumors about me.
However, I will say that no matter your circumstance, whether it's safe to come out or not, there's absolutely nothing to be ashamed of. It's only you; nothing to be afraid of. You're beautiful as you are.
“Katie, wake up.”
“Mhm. What?” I groggily open my eyes roused from a sleep so light one can hardly call it that. I glance at my phone. It’s 3:45 am, barely two hours I had finally gone to bed after an away game and a shower. I glance to my right, seeing my stepdad, . Before I can change my “what” to “sir”, he cuts me off.
It doesn’t take me long to catch his meaning. He had called me before halftime, saying my mom might go tonight, or last night, and I had barely been able to march the show with the weight of the news tightening my throat and stinging my
I slowly sit up as Justin wakes Bekah and they make their way towards the living room, where Nana and Jared are crying quietly. I stay at the edge of my bed, my feet touching the worn carpet, but not moving. I can’t bring myself to join them. I’ve tried to prepare for this moment and the seemingly impossible road to recovery after it. I imagined wailing, suicide, never being able to smile again, hitting someone or something, dying of a broken heart. But I’m completely numb, staring at how the hallway light seeps into my otherwise dark room.
I glance at my phone, seeing ten minutes have passed. Nana comes into check on me, but I briskly move away as she wails and makes it more about her than anything else. I don’t want to be touched and as rude or wrong as I may be, I don’t want to indulge in her pity party. I feel sick and heavy - like everything is closing in and ready to crush me into nothing. My eyes are still as dry as bone, though. Just like my throat. I’d kill to feel at least SOMETHING.
It’s late August, . I’m staring into space as I ride with my stepmstep mom and her dad, and it’s been about ten months since my mom died. The haze of grief has finally cleared away and I reflect on my recklessness the past several months. How far I’d gone and almost gone, how close I’d come to death a couple of times, and the people I’d inadvertently hurt in the process. All in the name to feel genuine emotion again. I don’t even remember most of it - just huge blanks of vague blurs and colors that I can’t place for the life of me.
Even though I’ve finally gotten my shit mostly together after my mom’s death, I’m still at a loss. Even beginning the recovery process for all the baggage my mom left me to deal with seems so implausible that I fell sick and crushed all over again. There’s so much history to unpack - let alone how I feel about it all. I’m drowning without water just trying to think about it.
I will my breath to remain even as my chest tightens and my eyes sting with the tears of as panicky attack. No way am I having one in front of two people in a cramped car for six more hours. As impossible as recovery seems, I can at least make the attempt. Without my mom on my back and trying to prevent counseling, I can take the first step - like I should have been allowed to do years ago.
It’s August, 2018. Tomorrow, I start school again after recklessly flunking out in the spring semester of 2016. I’m not fully recovered from everything, as I have PTSD and am still coming to terms with the codependence my mother had forced me into, but I’m steadily healing and moving forward. I’m gaining more confidence and freedom with each passing day. I don’t feel sick or stifled anymore. I’ve cut toxic people out of my life and improvedimproved upon my own behavior.
It’s hard to believe that almost three years ago, I thought I’d never feel anything again, and that my future was as bleak and colorless as I thought I was. But now, I know I can be so much more than anything my mom saw - and I have what it takes to do something amazing.