To My Mentally Ill Mother (From Your Mentally Ill Child)

We were already destined for a rough start. You were 19, with no real family, and my father was already gone. A string of doctors and hospitals had already spent a lifetime diagnosing and medicating, re-diagnosing and adjusting. But you were determined to do better for us.

My early years come back to me as mostly happy memories, despite your struggles. The days grandma picked me up from school because you were in the hospital, the blowouts, the moves- these were all peripheral features of my childhood. They never touched me.

As I grew older, we began to spin, slowly at first, a dizzy nausea, but gaining momentum as I grew up, and we grew apart. For every lie I told, you saw 20 more, and in my panic and anxiety, I confessed. I thought admitting to things I never did would solve your anger. No wonder you still think I’m a liar.

There were still times when we were happier than anyone could ever have dreamed, high on hope, and a manic chemical imbalance that seemed almost contagious. I would have followed you anywhere. I was your best – and often, your only – friend.

But the rage and suspicion always came crashing back, and I was finally old enough to run when you took a turn – and run I did. We would always come back to the table, eventually, but at 9 years old, the dust took hours to settle, at 12; days. Even the months we spent simmering seem insignificant in the face of these years.

Some days I still feel nothing but rage. At God, for not just giving me a normal fucking mother, at you, for not trying harder (I know you fought like hell), and at myself, for never quite figuring out who it was I was supposed to be, and for never figuring out how to talk to you. Even now, if I could tell you these things, I fear you would react only with anger – you would think I am blaming you. The truth is, I can’t blame you. I tried for years. It seemed easier. But I could never bring myself to believe that you did these things on purpose. I think you’re as much of a victim as I sometimes think I am. And I never for a second doubt that you loved me.

To this day, I’m not sure if I should apologize, or forgive you. I just pray that if I ever figure it out, you’ll be there to hear me.

I love you to the moon and back, even if I don’t know you anymore.