Today is my birthday.
Today is my birthday, but it is not a happy occasion. On this day, I am always reminded of every traumatic experience I've lived through and I always wish I could erase myself from existence. The loneliness and isolation I feel is exhausting, draining, heartbreaking, numbing. Each year, I try to remind myself of all of the good things in my life, but in the end nothing can compete against the bad, the traumatic, the miserable.
I am aware of how lucky I am to be where I am, but even knowing that makes no difference. On the contrary it makes it worse, because I hate having to qualify how “lucky” I am to not be dead, starving or in a serial killer's basement. I feel like an ungrateful nuisance. And I hate that. So today, I am going to allow myself to be miserable. And if you continue reading you should be OK with that as well.
These feelings, if I am perfectly honest, arise on this day every year because I am forced to spend all, if not most of the day, with my mother. I had planned to move out a few years ago, and had actually saved up quite a bit of money to do so, but something unexpected happened, and I was forced to abandon my plans of moving out. Throughout the past couple of years, I've tried saving up money OVER AND OVER again, but something always occurred out of the blue (medical bills, unforeseen expenses) and I was always forced use the money to fix something. I was always forced to start again. With each passing year, my soul has died a little more each time and this year, I am once again forced to spend the day in her company...and it is killing me.
I am not tone deaf or blind, and I understand how harsh my comments come across, but this little Endeavor of mine is a safe space and I am cloaked under anonymity. I can openly share how I feel and what I know and remember and today of all days I will allow myself to be truly honest about how I feel without the shame and guilt that I have associated with being honest about myself and my feelings.
Three years ago, I had the courage to tell my mother I hated her and to this day, it is the most honest and sincere thing I've ever said to her. I love my mother, but I don't like her. She has never been there for me; never been there when I've truly needed her, and she never will.
I hate writing this because it feels like a very obvious attempt at showing you how bad my mother is, but I need to get it out. I need to say something while no one is listening. Can you stay a while and listen?
The Doctor's Visit
When I was sixteen, I remember going to a doctor's office because I was feeling “too tired” and was “barely sleeping”. I was depressed, but even I didn't know it at the time. I was so fucked up and doing my best to hide it, and I attributed my tiredness and lack of sleep to that. Being the person she was, my mother never noticed anything. She called me lazy and entitled. She said I wasn't working hard enough, and that nothing good would ever come out of me pretending to be tired.
The only reason we went in the first place was because I had been physically sick for a week now and was not getting better. I was refusing to eat and I continuously felt dizzy and lightheaded. No one knew it at the time (and they still don't know), but flashbacks from something that occurred to me when I was four were coming back stronger than ever and I was unable to cope. I was trying to repress those memories and failing miserably. I had attempted suicide a week prior and had failed, which only served to increase my depression. When the doctor asked me what was happening—before he tried to take a blood sample to see if I was anemic or iron deficient or some shit—I panicked and told him that school was stressing me out. I had a full schedule at the time (5 AP classes), and my mother believed me, but the doctor saw past my lie for a fraction of a second and asked her to step out.
[int. I will not explain here how I manged to survive being fucked up and maintaining a 3.75 GPA, but it is possible. I made the impossible possible, but I barely survived and in the end it was all for nothing.]
When he looked me in the face and asked if I was depressed, I broke down crying. The doctor tried to give me a pep talk about not feeling too pressured about my workload and he asked again if I was depressed. I said NO, but I wasn't really lying. I didn't know at the time that I needed help or that the feelings I was experiencing were due to something that is highly stigmatized in Mexican households. To get him to stop talking, to get him to stop making me feel worthy of pity, I told him my workload was heavy because I wanted to be a neurosurgeon. I could tell he didn't believe me, but he somehow understood why I wasn't being honest. He prescribed melatonin for sleep and said I needed to eat more in order to accomplish my goals.
When we left the doctor's office, my mother smacked me across the face and said that I had embarrassed her. I was ungrateful and she screamed all the way home. I had nothing to be depressed about. She wasn't a bad mother. She fed me. She bought me clothes. She hadn't forgotten about me when she'd left me. She didn't whore me around to pervert men for drugs or money. She said I should be thankful for everything she gave me, and that she didn't understand why I would rather confide in a stranger, who could call the police and have my siblings and I get taken away, instead of her. I opened my mouth to apologize—to apologize for being a victim of her abuse—and she called me a victim. She again reminded me of how lucky I was and of all the sacrifices she had made to bring me to the United States. I stopped crying and remained silent the rest of the way home.
I remember this instance more than any other on this day and I always look back at myself with regret. I should have said something. I should have gotten the help I deserved and needed, but...
But. But. But.
There is always some but (that prevented me from saying something).
I am much better now, but I am still a work in progress. I am much better now, but therapy is expensive. I am much better now, but I still have a lot of work to do. I am much better now, but I am still a poor woman trying to get by. I am much better now, but am I lying to myself?
Soon will be different. Soon I'll get better. Soon. (how soon is soon?)
This life is a gift. I can always count on that. This life is a gift. Even if it doesn't feel that way. This life is a gift. A gift I did not want, but received nonetheless.
Not all gifts are beautiful. Not all gifts are good. Not all gifts are kind. But a gift is a gift nonetheless.
Soon will be different. Soon I'll get better. Soon. (but how soon is soon?)
I am patiently waiting.