People often ask me, “What was your upbringing like for you to choose this person?” Admittedly, I wonder the same thing when I hear stories like mine.
I struggle with the answer. Not because I am ashamed of my childhood but because I cringe when people blame their childhood for the problems in their life. I didn’t have a fabulous childhood. That is a fact. I choose to take ownership for the decisions that I make as an adult.
Here is a snapshot into my life:
I was born to teenage parents– my mom was 16 when she became pregnant with me and my dad was 18. Basically, my mom had problems that I didn’t understand. We found out after her passing that she had been diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder years before. Everything after that made sense and I was able to let go of the anger that I had towards her. Learning about the disease helped me to understand my mother.
My Mom was awarded custody of me as a teenager– that seems to be the norm in the 70’s. The fact is, she shouldn’t have been in charge of a child. My mother’s parents (my grandparents) removed me from my mother’s care and my father became my sole legal and physical guardian when I was about six months old. That was probably the best thing that could have ever happened to me as a child.
My mother chose to self-medicate with drugs and alcohol as a way to cope with her disease. She spent time in mental institutions and the drugs and alcohol caused her to be very unreliable and abusive. I have very few memories with my mother and the ones that I do remember aren’t positive. My mom made many poor choices and she attempted suicide many times. She said hurtful things and she wasn’t a mother– at all.
My mom ended her life on November 28, 2001 at the age of 44 years old. I feel that she is at peace for the first time ever.
Essentially, my dad and I grew up together. Being a single parent myself, I can now understand how difficult it must have been for my dad. I have the utmost respect for my dad as most men would have walked away when faced with the challenge of raising a baby girl on their own. My dad didn’t walk away– he stayed and he loved me. We’ve been through a lot together and he has always been there when I need him– to this very day.
My dad re-married when I was two years old and while they are divorced now, I still maintain a relationship with my ex-stepmother. I thank her for being my mom for the nine years that they were married. We’ve had our ups and downs over the years but I think that is pretty normal with the dynamics of a step-family.
A therapist once told me that they were amazed at how “healthy” I was (gotta love that coming from a therapist!), given my background and upbringing. He asked if there was anyone in my life that was a stable, constant voice of reason and support during my life. There was– that person is my Aunt Bev. My Aunt Bev is my rock– and has been for as long as I can remember. As she recently said to me, “everyone needs a person in their life who tells them how it is– versus what they want to hear”. Thank you for being that person, Aunt Bev.