A letter to my mother: This is what I've endured.

To my mother,

In the five years since we last spoke, I’ve been through hell.  Did you know that? When I last saw you, I think it was to pick up our three dogs from your house. We’d asked you to babysit them while we went to Colorado for a week so I could obtain medical care. You complained: our new puppy had an accident, and they created a lot of work for you, especially since you already had several dogs. You were burdened by the weight of that favor – a favor that I requested as reluctantly as you acquiesced. A favor that I needed so that I could spend my holiday break during my final year of law school obtaining painful nerve blocks and pelvic floor physical therapy.  I needed it to allow me to spend that week in a hotel room, away from home, away from the security of my bed and my dogs.  I needed it to ever-so-slightly ease the financial burden of being uninsured and obtaining out-of-state medical treatment while living on student loans. I needed it so my partner could join me, so he could help make that experience just a little less painful and isolating and terrifying.  But you were inconvenienced.

We picked up the dogs on our drive home from Colorado. I shared with you that I was considering dropping out of law school because I was suffering so badly. You didn’t take me seriously. You didn’t take my pain seriously. You didn’t take me seriously.

So much has happened since then.

When we last spoke, I was planning a wedding. My pain became too severe, and my medical expenses became too large. That wedding was cancelled. Eventually, we rescheduled it for the next year, but by then I was wheelchair-bound.  I saved all of my energy and took enough medication that I was able to walk the few steps down the aisle to my husband at our wedding and was able to stand across from him as we said our vows.

He has been my rock. For the past decade, we have pled our dedication and love to one another. We recommit to our relationship each hour, each day, each year. We have supported one another through unimaginable hurt and trauma – even when others, like you, were nowhere to be found.  He was the only one who sat by my bedside as I was hospitalized. He was the only one in the room when I awoke from surgical anesthesia. He was the only one who I trusted with my life.  Our marriage signified our recognition of ourselves as a family unit, but his love and loyalty to me existed years before. My father-in-law recently spent time with us and felt compelled to share how joyful he felt, as a parent, to see his son in such a loving relationship. It made us both emotional to realize that our love is so tangibly apparent. You’ve missed out on so much. You’ve missed the opportunity to feel that kind of joy, and to be a part of that love.

My god, my illness was lonely. I cried hot tears into my pillow so many nights as I writhed in pain, desperate for my mother to wrap her arms around me. My therapist often reminded me that I longed for a mother, but not for my mother.  The point was both reassuring (I wasn't a sadist for wishing a woman who’s inflicted such pain back into my life) and devastating (I don’t get another mother, so I’m left with a void).  I felt fear that a girl in her twenties shouldn’t experience, and pain that no one should endure. I longed for someone to comfort me in the way that I thought mothers alone could do.  

Gosh, what else? Well, I’ve moved across the country. My beloved dog Gracie passed away a few years ago, which devastated me. I’m professionally successful. I’m deeply in love with my husband. I’m excited to become a mother. I’m still paying off $60,000 in medical debt from when my insurance lapsed (thank god for Obamacare – it literally saved my life).  Oh, and perhaps most surprisingly to me, my life has filled with women more than willing to offer some mothering. Some are young mothers themselves, always ready with a hug when we meet for coffee. Others are women who have nurtured and held me through this journey, and who’ve loved me no matter how sick or overwhelmed I may have been at the time. They’ve taken such joy in my recovery, and it’s amazing to feel that my recovery has helped people beyond myself. I write this blog in an attempt to extend empathy and love to other women (and it works – thousands read this each month!).

I still leave space for you, mom. Sometimes I write letters to you that I never send. I think of you, and I love you. But I love me too, and I’m fiercely protective of myself after what I’ve endured. So while I leave space for you, that space is reserved for the “old you” – the “you” who wasn’t cruel or critical or absent. The “you” who didn’t go to work knowing that our father would drive around drunk with us strapped in the backseat. The “you” who wasn’t so dogmatic about everything. The “you” who laughed, who hugged, who brewed iced tea in the sunshine in the summers, who made me milkshakes when I was sick, who sang along to Joni Mitchell while cooking, and who spoiled my dog. I love that woman so deeply and completely, but somewhere along the way, you became a shell of that beautiful soul. If she ever comes back, if she ever heals from what she’s endured or from what life’s done to her, I hope you’ll come back. 

But if not, or until then, I’m doing alright.  I just felt that it was time to let you know.

All content © 2018 Inspire Santé, NFP