“I first realized things weren’t normal when my parents started fighting. I knew they hadn’t been happy for some time, but never thought my mom would deal with it the way she did. I remember her crying. For days. For weeks.
I arrived home after school in seventh grade. She was barely conscious. My heart was racing, and I ran outside to call for help. ‘Please!’ I said, ‘Somebody call 911!’
I tried everything I could, including trying to force her to throw up, but she wouldn’t. She looked into my eyes deeply and told me she wanted to die. Tears started to pour down my face.
I wish I could say that was her rock bottom, but things only got worse. She attempted suicide twice more.
After my parents separated, her mental health declined further. She started partying excessively, abusing alcohol and drugs, and encouraging me to live the same way.
For a while things seemed manageable. She would party with my friends and I, which I found a little odd, but looking back at it now, we were 16 and she was a terrible influence. She managed to keep it up for years.
I turned into the mother, and felt as though I was the one holding things together. I was the one who dealt with her bipolar outbursts and depressive states, put her to bed when she was drunk, and cleaned her up after she unconsciously threw up all over herself. She stopped buying groceries, and started bringing new guys to the house, whom she had med online. She was too busy entertaining these men every night to help me after surgery. I learned to fend for myself, because she wouldn’t, and because it wasn’t worth the mental abuse anyway. It became normal.
Things became physical. ‘I waited my whole life to beat the shit out of you!’ she would say, before drawing her arm back for momentum.
I finally left and cut off our relationship, which included any form of communication. The guilt ate at me. She is my mother, but I knew I had to do it for myself. I want to help her. I want her to beat her demons, to move past her mental illness.
It’s hard to abandon someone who is suffering. You feel like it’s your fault. I’m telling you, it isn’t. It never is.
Almost a decade later, I am terrified any time people move too quickly. I flinch. I have a hard time trusting people, and even when they have the best intentions, I doubt them. Some damage can’t be undone. I made the right decision. Putting your own well-being first is absolutely always what needs to be done.
In moments that have seemed as though she has changed, I’ve attempted to bring her back into my life. Unfortunately though, things never change. The last time we reconnected things seemed to have improved, but quickly after our reunion I felt the abuse starting again. She put me down relentlessly, and tried to make me feel worthless. I had to leave before I began to believe her again.
I’ve tried to repair our relationship many times now, but it always ends in the same way. Her mental illness takes over and, as much as I’d like to help, I’ve come to learn that it isn’t worth sacrificing myself.
Letting go of someone you love to care for yourself is one of the hardest, but most necessary decisions you could ever make. The guilt lingers, but you simply have to make a change.
I want people to know that it’s okay to put yourself first. You have to. Create a support system and surround yourself with people you can trust. Talk it out. Accept the situation and the people in it as they are. Look forward, not back. It will be the best decision you ever make.
My past motivates me. It proves that I am strong. You are always stronger than you think you are, and deserve more than you think you do. It’s okay to leave.”
– Female, 23, Canada