Words were said—we were all wrong in what we did. I look back at those times and think about how things would be so different if she’d only paused and listened to me. For several years, I blamed myself for the catalyst that led to the ultimate destruction of the relationship—however toxic it was—between my mother and me.
This post contains content that may be triggering (e.g. suicide, self-harm/self-destruction, variations of abuse). It was hard for me to write, so I imagine it can’t be easier reading.
On my older laptop (the one that broke), I’d recorded a video, which captured only the audio, of the night my stepfather found the stash of money my mom hid in an old shoe at the top of the closet. “G*d dammit! We needed the money! I told you time and time again,” he’d yelled. “Fuck!” I heard her crying. Several times, I picked my phone up in my right hand and dialed 9-1-1, but I never pressed the call button—I was scared. Stuff like this, we didn’t share it with anyone—calling the cops about such familial matters was wrong. I’d been warned they’d take my siblings away. My life was shitty, but I was hands-down preparing for some Gracie’s Choice events—ever since I’d seen the movie premiere and learned it was a possibility, I’d been preparing for the day I’d have to channel my inner Gracie. My siblings, I gave up so much for them; I would have died just to keep them safe.
But I couldn’t call. Back then, this site called Daily Booth was around, and I was taking photos for it. I also sometimes recorded silent videos of myself with the rescued cats—they were supposed to go to a no-kill shelter, but instead we adopted them out to people in the town. The video was recording. I watched it once, in 2013—it was hard, considering the yelling, slamming of blows, my mother’s crying, and my own petrified face. I became someone else that night, in that moment, and eventually fell asleep sometime after her husband stormed off into the living room to sleep on the couch.
The next day, I stayed in Carrie’s room until he left. They fought again. I was glad she was still alive. She followed after him out the door, crying and yelling, “I love you!” and he kept saying, “Fuck off!” and, “Bye!” He told her not to wait up for him—that she should be lucky if he comes home tonight, because he’ll think about it. She cried and rummaged around in a kitchen cabinet. Sometimes, I can’t hear well because of sensory overload and general hearing difficulties, but then other times, I can hear even the lightest step.
I dressed and walked out of the room. When she asked me if I’d heard their spat, I lied and said I didn’t. When I asked her what she was doing, she said, “I’m just getting something to help me sleep. I didn’t sleep well last night. “Oh,” I said. There was an awkward aura in the room, like we both knew what the other knew, but didn’t want to admit it—or maybe she genuinely didn’t know I knew. Was that where I went wrong? Should I have said I had heard it—that I’d heard most everything?
As long as I’d been aware of myself—which is complicated to explain because I have dissociative identity disorder, but I hadn’t known about other alters then—I had never known him to abuse her like he did me. I was a scared twenty-year-old, brought up under immense sheltering and raised to believe children should fear their parents. The world had never felt as small as it did that morning, as I stood in the kitchen in short shorts and some kind of top her husband would’ve hated just because I was the one wearing it. I wished I’d called the police, because then he wouldn’t be hurting my mom anymore.
I would have moved mountains just so this woman, who society told me loved me unconditionally, would love me unconditionally. I didn’t know how to piece her back together or what she needed. Trauma was always something I’d experienced myself and had had to keep to myself, so I couldn’t fathom that it was happening to her.
She told me she loved me and went back to bed. Around lunchtime, I asked her if she wanted anything, and she said no. She got out of bed, though, and grabbed some more sleeping pills—I don’t know how many. I didn’t think to look. Mostly, I was focused on my FarmVille addiction and my blog. I did some cleaning, because I was bored, but otherwise everything was typical for my mom and me—some days, she slept a lot; other days, she wanted to clean everything twice. She’d explained to me once that that was a part of Bipolar Disorder, so I didn’t think anything of it. I was ignorant of whatever had precisely conspired between them last night, but I understood the need to be alone and sometimes sleep—I understood the depressive feelings.
The kids arrived home, and I stressed that Mom was sleeping. They busied themselves with whatever, since it was the weekend.
Their father barged in that evening. “Where the fuck is your mother?” he asked. I told him she was sleeping. “All day?” I nodded and opened my mouth to say something, but he was already talking again. “Dammit!” he said. “Are you stupid? She’s been sleeping all day, and you didn’t find that weird? Just sat on your computer all day doing nothin’?!”
I turned into a stuttering, frozen mess. On television, I always saw people practice fight or flight—seldom freeze. My go-to action was usually freeze or flight. The house shook as he stomped into the bedroom and slammed the door. He yelled at her, and the kids panicked while I felt sick to my stomach. How dare I just sit there and…what? Do nothing? How dare I do nothing all day? I should have checked on her—I should have known, I should have understood what was happening.
Ignorance clouded me until they walked out and announced they were going to Taco Casa. When Isaac asked what had happened, my stepfather said, “Your mother tried to kill herself, and your sister just let it happen.”
“I didn’t know!” I yelled. I was defensive, shaking, nauseated. I’d hurt myself and contemplated suicide before, but being blamed for the reason why my mom had attempted it—when it was his fault—sliced me up worse than I’d ever been able to do to myself.
My mom reached for her prescribed medication for bipolar disorder and started to take them. “You don’t need those,” her husband said. She had that weird sudden happiness she got whenever they “made up” and started to contest his statement, but he said, “Not anymore. You have me.” He took them from her and threw them away.
That night, Isaac went into the bedroom to chat with them, and there was a bit of talk about a hole in the wall no one wanted me to see, presumably because they knew how I’d react.
Some time after, I called the doctor’s office as I stood in the pasture. Mimi worked to get the horses into the barn to feed them. The nurse answered, and despite my explaining that I knew I wasn’t on my mother’s HIPAA and that revealing my identity as the one who ratted them out would put me in danger, they were told regardless. Worse, the nurse jumped to conclusions and kept assuming they were selling pills, despite my constant reiterating that he’d thrown them into the trashcan—that I’d watched him open them up and dump them out.
‘Twas a misunderstanding.
Words were said. He’d blame me for that day ever since, even though it wasn’t directly my fault—nor my place to recognize the signs. He’d remind her I told her doctor they were “selling drugs”. She’d hate me and hold against me everything she believed I ever did wrong, but worse: due to the misunderstanding, she now cannot be prescribed any medication for her bipolar disorder. They’d take my siblings to therapy and tell the therapists I was dangerous, manipulative—a psychopath.
I didn’t know the signs. He’d raised me to mind my “own fuckin’ business”.
And on the days she wondered what would become of me because Mimi was moving, or whatever trouble I’m having in my own life, I can’t help wondering if she ever wonders why I don’t just return. I did it once, so what’s a second time? Even if there was a hope of any kind of relationship between us…if ever there was something I had the opportunity to tell her about that hope, it would be a recommendation to get to know her husband a little better.
Not only do I not return for my own benefit, but because the man to whom she is married threatened me not to return.
They can forget it and twist every truth until there is none left.
My mother once told me her greatest fear was losing me, because I was hers and no one else’s. If the context surrounding the statement was nonexistent, I wouldn’t find it so ironic. She spent so much of my life battling people who weren’t enemies and became that of her own.
I know she believes she’s punishing me, but I know there is a light to her beyond the darkness she’s been sucked up into. It doesn’t excuse what she’s done or how wrong she is—I’m just saying that I get it. I understand she truly thought she was doing the right thing, but because I’ve seen that she is capable of doing good—even off her meds—I believe she should be held accountable for her actions and work at being better instead of wallowing forever in violence.
My life…I’m living it. To me, my mother is no more than the person who birthed me. I’m too old to be adopted by a mother, but then even when I was growing up, women in my life raised me. They did well. Raising a child takes a village, and that’s what I felt like I had—I didn’t just have the bio dad and court-appointment guardians, but people who went out of their way to surround me with love. And regardless of whether there’s rhyme or reason to what I experienced, my past has made me one hell of an artist.
P.S. This is the “thing” I referred to that would have been terrible had it happened.