I Just Want You to Understand, Mom.

Mom,

“We’re medical people; we don’t understand all of that.”

The same response over and over when I try to tell you what it’s like to be rapid cycling bipolar I. To have Borderline Personality Disorder (that you denied for four years). To have a rare neurological disorder triggered by stress that even you doubted was real at one point. To have Generalized Anxiety Disorder despite having it yourself. To have been actively and passively suicidal since the age of 14, though I’m not now. You’ve even been telling me that I’ve been ADHD since the age of 13.

But if it doesn’t involve medication, you refuse to stop and listen.

“We’re medical people, your dad and I; we don’t understand all of the therapy and psychology stuff. We took that years ago in nursing school.”

Tch. Dad’s a recovering drug addict now. A changed man. Now an “expert in therapy” after a year in NA. He “knows everything”… and nothing at all.

You can’t stand to be around me for more than a couple of hours once or twice a week when I’m manic.

When I’m depressive.

When I’m in the middle of a conversion disorder episode—stuttering, the right side of my body dysfunctional, just losing chunks of time, having dissociative seizures, my vision tunneled, my hands not working well enough to even type.

When I’m having crippling anxiety attacks that leave me locked in my room, crying and shaking, or just shutting down completely and avoiding all work entirely.

I’m scared shitless, but you ghost on me because I’m “too stressful” to be around anymore with my mental health, my school stress, my work stress. All of my stress.

All of my past mental health issues have been too much, and you didn’t allow me to get the proper diagnoses to get proper treatment. “They’ll follow you for the rest of your life; they’ll label you. You’ll never be treated the same.” I finally told you to piss off and got diagnosed when my meds stopped working. Just depression was acceptable. You were diagnosed with depression; it’s okay to be clinically depressed. That’s “normal.”

You’d know about treating patients differently though. You do that to your own with psychiatric histories. Or you did, until karma bit you in the ass because your own kid was so borked in the head. You stayed with an abusive husband.

You’ve gotten meaner as you’ve gotten older, and the longer I’m around you, the meaner you get. I see you once or twice a week, sometimes every two…, three weeks. You’re sweet, loving. You tell me how much you miss me. You hop off my ass. You’re the “safe parent” I grew up with, even if you were meek and submissive back then. …Even if you’re defending dad now, comparing him and I despite him refusing to take responsibility for his behavior. Stockholm’s Syndrome. I swear.

Now, you just don’t listen. You don’t try to understand what I go through every day. The medication changes and side effects. The therapy. You know the medical bills because I’m still a student, on your insurance. You just don’t know what I deal with; you think you do.

“I’ve been doing that for years; buck up bucky. We’re all crazy. Just keep going.”

“Well, xxxx happened to me, and here I am.”

“You don’t have cancer; it could be worse. This won’t kill you.”

You have no idea. J literally saved my live. The friends I’ve made, all the way in Europe, thousands of miles away, have picked up your life. J, my Dutchie boyfriend, has been there for almost nine months now. He’s learned about every disorder, handled every manic episode when I become so erratic, so ragey, so spastic. HE takes care of me, from 5,000 miles away, where you can’t 30 minutes away.

Where are you? I appreciate the financial support; I need that despite hating the fact I rely on that through school. I don’t want it, but I have to have it. You’ve ghosted on me though when I’d needed you most.

Not that our household has ever been known for emotional support. Maybe that’s why I’m such an angry jackass now. At 22, an early-onset cynic.

I just want you to understand what I deal with on a daily basis.

You think you know. You don’t.

Tell me what it’s like to stop breathing normally, to wheeze and choke, just because psychological stress completely borks your Central Nervous System.

Tell me what it’s like to go without sleep for 61 hours, sleep for three, and go without for another 54 hours feeling completely refreshed. Snapping at friends, starting fights with your boyfriend over nothing… and fighting to control that manic brain but just losing the battle in the end.

Tell me what it’s like to vacillate between loving and hating your closest friends, reacting irrationally emotionally despite knowing it’s too much, to feel abandoned when you know damn well that person is still there (unlike you and dad)…

I could go on, but you’ve stopped listening a long time ago. I’m wasting my breath. I’ll be back for Sisi, Ollie, Kellan, Damon…, but when I’ve got my degrees, I’m out. Everything’s going well with J. I’m peacing out to the Netherlands. I’m staying. Don’t expect to hear much from me. I’ve tried to have functional relationships with you two.

I’m done. I can’t do it anymore.

I still love you, but you’re getting more and more toxic with age. For the sake of my mental health, I have to detach completely, and for good.

~Jessie

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Would You Read This, Dad?

Dad,

I’m wondering what’s going on in your head anymore. I’ve moved out for college. I don’t see you much. I’ve asked mom, but she doesn’t really know anymore either. You’re still married. It’ll be 24 years this year on October 1st, together for 25 or 26. You’re… different… now though.

As of January 2016, you’re clean. We never knew you had a problem, and it was never a specific substance, nor illegal substances. You experimented as a teenager, but many do. You were just an all-around asshole growing up.

Your brain has been fried by the drugs. You’re more inert than a noble gas. You don’t stand up for yourself much anymore when you were once an angry jackass with an explosive temper. You’re quiet, wandering around in the landscape of your own warped psyche, lost in thoughts of… only you know.

I want to know what you’re thinking. I want to know what I can do to make you proud. I want to know what I can do to MacGuyver some kind of relationship with you. What we had growing up was superficial and brittle; it fell apart over the years and has long fallen to dust and blown away in the wind.

As much as I tell myself I’m fucking done trying to rebuild a relationship with you, that mostly-dead, five-year-old Jessie is still alive. By some miracle, she’s managed a weak pulse. Seventeen years is a hell of a long time to keep breathing with no hope. …Maybe it’s because we’re so damn stubborn.

Mom once told me you were a different person before you two married, before I was born. …Did that man die because of me? Mom thought she was too old, but you wanted me. You were 25 and mom 36 when I was brought into this world. Was I mistake? Did you realize you’d fucked up when you looked at that black-haired little jelly bean wrapped in a Minnie Mouse blankie?

Most of me despises you for what you did to me, to Sisi. She’s your step-daughter, and you still managed to mess her up to some degree. What you did to mom, too. God, did you goof big time there. More so than me, and you borked me pretty bad, too.

That little girl though… She feels like she failed you. She hates herself for that. She feels like you hate her.

In the back of my mind, I can always hear, “I want my daddy back. Please, just tell me how to make it better. Daddy, what did I do wrong? I can fix it. Just tell me how. I promise I’ll make it better.”

It hurts 22-year-old me. I just want her to let go and die peacefully. …But she’s a bull-headed fool…, just like me.

..That five-year-old misses you, dad. She wants you to come back. She remembers the softball games, sitting in the truck and playing the Question Game, listening to songs that she plays in my mind on repeat, sitting at the ICU nurses’ station and you shooting packets of sugar at her with tourniquets or spraying her with foam hand sanitizer with your coworkers. You laughed. She did too. I can see the grin on her face even without closing my eyes at the memories.

She watched the concerts we went to when I was older. She liked that. She wants that back. It was fake, but it looked like it was real. She pretends it was real, and she wants it to be real if it comes back again.

Until she gets it through her thick skull that it’s just not happening, that I’ve tried time and time again, I’m forced to continue. She doesn’t understand that you’re not coming back—that the person you were before I was born is dead, and the blip of that man she saw one night before you got clean was merely a ghost of the past.

So here we go again. Round… tch, 500 (?):

How can I fix this? How can I get through that barrier and into your mind? How can I find you and truly talk to you? Find that common ground we once had? Get you to really talk to me again? How do I re-connect with you before it’s too late?

I Am Not

am not cookie dough.
You can’t just find your favorite cookie cutter,
hidden in the cabinets,
long forgotten from my childhood,
and press me into who you want to see—
what you wish I’d turned into rather than what I’ve become.
am not cookie dough,
and I am not sorry that you can’t handle the warped finished product.
You burned the cookie.

am not a quilt.
You can’t just take your favorite fabrics,
your favorite pieces of me,
and sew them into a pretty little blanket.
Crisp edges and bright colors with wide fields of May flowers preceded only by mild April showers.
am not a quilt,
and I am not sorry that you’re unhappy with the aesthetic of a frayed, storm-torn, barren cluster of scraps.
You fucked up the stitching.

am not a military contract.
You can’t sign up for 18 years,
serve your time,
and choose not to reenlist when shit goes south;
decide that you don’t want to re-commit because the state of my psyche has declared WWIV.
WWIII was mandatory—
year 16 or 18.
Damn.
So close, right?
I am not a military contract,
and I am not sorry for the wars you let happen, contributed to.
You were blind to the red flags.

I am not your “smiley baby girl.”
Not anymore.
You can’t just stick your head in the sand,
watching the clips of the past in the recesses of your mind.
She’s dead;
she has been for ten years.
What’s left is the husk of the creature she wanted to be.
I am not your “smiley baby girl” anymore,
and the only thing I’m sorry for is the burden you place on others in picking up your slack because you can’t face the truth.
You let her slip away.

I Thought I Had One

‘At least I have one good parent…’
I’ve been telling myself this from the time I realized I never had a father.
Funny thing is,
my parents were [and still are] married.
We lived in the same house.
We did these superficial little things together.

But, …if we’re being honest,
were we genuinely a family?
Fuck.
No.

My father was always absent—
drifting off into the recesses of his own mind,
ruminating on his self-serving need for the gratitude of others,
fixated on this mindless drive to be a caring, devout nurse, loved by every patient and coworker alike,
focused on his sole purpose in life of spreading love to the entirety of world,
…excluding his family.

So, what were we to him?
A wife: secondary income-earner and sexual object.
A daughter: the only thing he created to pass on his genes and continue his “legacy”.
A step-daughter: the seven-year-old came with the wife from the previous marriage.
Apparently,
not a whole lot.
Usually,
it felt like nothing.

Now,
as of February 2016,
a changed man;
a recovering drug addict.
He has a disease,
and just like that…,
it’s as if the last 25 years,
of which 22 I existed,
no longer mattered.
You forgave him quickly.
Easily.

I am so.

Fucking.

Disappointed.

In him?
Sure.
But in you?
More than you can ever imagine.

You were our rock growing up.
You were forced to raise a child, a teenager…
and a husband.
You worked the overtime.
You paid the bills.
You found the money to pay for Christmas,
when there was no money to be found.

You took the brunt of the physical abuse,
for both Sisi and I.
Even if you were so angry because you couldn’t save us from the emotional,
the verbal abuse,
you did everything you could.
You even grew a pair with age;
you’re no longer that meek, doe-eyed woman I called “Mommy” as a kid.

But you can see drug abuse,
unlike an unbalanced brain chemistry,
and because he’s a “changed man”,
your marriage is “better than ever.”
10/02/1993 to Present

“He’s just like you—he has a disease.”
You beg me to open my eyes,
to magically forgive a lifetime of abuse—
my own, your own, Sisi’s…,
all of which I had witnessed first-hand.

But you can see his,
because you can see drug abuse.”
The acid splatters across your skin;
my words—impulsive, resentful—are corrosive.
Don’t you dare compare me to him.
You can’t see excess dopamine.
The flesh on your arms begins to melt away.
The words erode further inward,
exposing more and more of you as I go on.
You can’t see disordered patterns of thought… maladaptive schemas!

Schemas…?
I read the question in your expression,
can see it in your eyes.
The rage condenses in my chest,
implodes,
forms a black hole.
It consumes everything,
beginning with me.

You know what?!
I’d explained it god-knows-how-many-times.
Once again,
you hadn’t listened to a goddamn thing.
Fucking forget it!
Shaking my head,
I walk away.
Again.

What happened to you?
What else did he do to you?
You were ready to finally leave;
for once, ready to think of,
think for,
yourself.

You were ready to do what’s best for yourself

I just…
Who are you?
Please tell me.
At least then,
I’ll know who I’m talking to,
because I’m sure as hell not talking to Audre Annette.

I Always Learn the Hard Way

I always learn easy lessons the hard way.
Genetic flaw, it’s been said.
Not untrue, I suppose.
Take a look at both sides—mother and father.
I… just learned much faster than my mother this time.

“I promise you, things will change.”
Ignorant, youthful hope.
Blind, unyielding faith.
Socialized, cult mentality idolization.
Call it what you like.
But through the eyes of an eight-year-old,
it was simply the yearning for the same father that every other kid had.
Regardless of which option you choose,
Hindsight is always 20/20.

I expected so much more.

The blazing mid-year months just after navy blue caps and gowns.
Another whirlwind of corrosive words; I spat my fair share.
World War… V, now?
The Non-Aggression Pact has been drawn.
Both Allied and Axis powers, each only one country strong, sit with the mediator.
She is silent.

“You never said anything.”
The Axis took on a gentle tone.
The Allied power was lulled into a false belief of fault.

“You’re right; I’ll try harder.”
The Axis claims victory;
A replication of World War III.

“We’ll both try harder.”
An illusion of concession.
The Axis power is cunning.
And though my obedient mind is nearly free from its collar,
I, again, find light where it has long faded away.

I still expected so much more.

Desperation.
Fear.
Disorientation.
Clumsy fingers fumbling, fighting, to spit jumbled masses of text.
Hands tremble and fold.
The mind’s eye falls blind.
The weakened arms of cognition fall just short of the words they seek.

‘Phone call…’

No hesitation… no where else to turn.
The Allied Power seeks out the Axis.
The lips mimic the fingers—fumbling to spit jumbled, broken thoughts.
The Axis responds the same.
The words of the Allies fall on deaf ears.

World War VII, worse than World War VI.
No mediator, however;
The Allied power has grown
While the Axis has remained the same.
They now stand on equal ground.

Stalemate
.

You did not change.
You have not changed.
You never will change.

I should have learned long ago not to expect much more.

You Came to Me in a Dream [1/2]

You came to me in a dream.
You stood at the bottom of the creaky basement stairs in the old farmhouse,
and I, at the top.
Wide-eyed, I asked, “Why are you here?”

The last time I saw you, I was six years old.

You were skeletal, frail…,
your eyes made of shining glass,
dingy, gray gown hanging off of you as if a coat rack.

You didn’t know who you were, you didn’t know who I was…
you didn’t know who mom was.

I remember hatred, spiteful venom, bitter, accusatory words,
and only seconds of lucidity.
Once, you apologized.
Mom cried.
And in an instant,
you were gone again.

The snake returned,
the hand on the lever at birth,
that lever yanked down hard the first time they attached those nodes, set you in that chair, as a girl.
She was always a little off…”, they said.
Their “fix” broke the dam; “off” became only understatement.

The last time I saw you,
your skin had chilled and body locked tight.
Your glassy eyes had finally shut.
Your skeletal frame had finally stilled.
Your jumbled masses of venomous utterances had finally ceased.
Your final moment of lucidity had come;
once more, you apologized.
Mom shed her final tears.

I remember walking to your final resting place, shrouded in tall shadows of black.
I remember watching them lower you downward in that box made of oak.
I remember the flowers mom kept alive for a decade after we walked away that day.
I remember missing a day of school, condolences from teachers and friends.
Honestly… that’s about all I remember, and most of it…
just faded scraps of old photos in a box in the back of my mind.

But I do remember thinking, even back then, “You are finally free.”

So when you came to me in a dream,
healthy and robust,
1930’s style floral dress, fit perfectly to your figure,
bright eyes,
clear smile,
I knew that even as a little girl,
hardly old enough to even faintly understand the concept of death,
that I was right.

No more delusions.
No more voices.
No more monsters.
No more paranoia, depression, panic, fear, isolation, guilt, regret.
In death…, you regained life.

You.
Were.
Free.

You. Are. Free. [2/2]

It’s been ten years.”
A gentle smile,
clear, bright eyes.
In one graceful motion, she bounded up the stairs.
“Come sit with me.”
We were at eye level;
ten years ago, even so brittle and pale, I was still looking up.

A firm grip on my hand,
she led me into the living room,
passed the old piano,
around the beige, floral-patterned couch that belonged to her in life,
behind the square, solid oak coffee table, and on to the floor.
We sat cross-legged, engulfed in the warmth of the rays of light shining through the window behind the beside the staircase.

“You’ve grown so much.”
She was the first to speak; her smile—a smile I had never seen on her—remained.
“I’ve missed you; I’m sorry I haven’t come sooner.”
The smile faltered out of guilt for just a moment.

I eventually managed a broken, muttered, “it’s okay.”
I slowly slipped out of the stupor;
however, I didn’t know what to say.
She did.

“You’ve played softball for so long.”
The smile piqued again.
“You look so healthy.”
She placed a hand on either side of my face.
They were as cold as the day we laid her to rest.

“Tell me, have you decided?”

I wasn’t sure how, but I knew what she was asking.
“Orthopedic surgeon.”
I finally managed a smile in return.
“I made this…”

“…poster of the human skeletal system at only ten, with every single bone. I saw it.”
She beamed, proud of me.
I couldn’t stop the smile pulling more widely across my expression, too.
You were always a smart little one, Jessie.”
She pulled me into a frigid embrace,
and I obliged
She was… herself.

A sharp inhale.
I open my eyes, immediately looking to the face of the digital clock.
Cold sweat beads on the back of my neck and forehead—03:30.

I futilely resist the tears welling in my eyes,
but I still smile.
“…It was nice to see you again, Grandma Jackie.”
The chill drifts out of my room.
Saline droplets race down my cheeks faster than I can force them away.
“Come back again, okay…?”

The silence of the early morning and the warmth of the living seeping back into the room are my only answers