Updated: Jul 13, 2020
| This is the 61st story of Our Life Logs |
I grew up thinking I was disposable. Throughout my childhood, I was passed around to several houses until my mother decided to take me back. This constant uprooting caused severe anxiety and depression, making my “lows” feel like deep caverns. There have been a few people in my life who reached out to me when I felt most unworthy. Though there weren’t many, these people made all the difference.
I came into the world as a shock. I was born in Cincinnati, Ohio to two young, unprepared parents in their early 20s. Without the mental endurance or finances to care for me, my mother decided to go travel to Europe for a few months and leave me with my grandma. I had disturbed her lifestyle, so she ran away. Most of the family didn’t think she’d come back. She did return to the States, but she didn’t return to resume custody of me. I was “up for grabs” among different members of my extended family.
I lived with my grandmother until I was in the second grade. During this year of school, I struggled because of my ADHD. My teachers disregarded my specific needs. During the course of one year, I transferred three different times, finally settling in a school district near my aunt.
At the age of eight my aunt took me in to raise alongside her four children. I felt like an outsider. This new living arrangement felt more stable, but less welcoming. I was often bullied by my cousins and treated as if I was just an appendage to their family. On the weekends, I was passed off to one of my parents.
When I was 13, my aunt decided that my mother was stable enough to take care of me. My mother had a job, a place to live, a car, and was off drugs, and so I moved in with my mom and her boyfriend. I had known my mom from the weekend visits, so it wasn’t difficult to adjust to another new house. It wasn’t so easy to adjust to the side of her personality that I had not experienced. My mother didn’t treat me very well. She loved to blame me for her problems. If she got laid off or there was a bad driver on the road, I was somehow the cause. I developed severe anxiety and depression during this time.
My mother was the reason I was put on Adderall, because my aunt hadn’t allowed me to be put on it for my ADHD. While taking it helped me do better in school, there was a downside too. Ever since my mom had put me on it, she attempted to put me on other medications to stifle my other characteristics. I was never a fan of medicine and had a fear of the doctor, so I stood firm.
Constantly fighting with my mom made for dark times, but I have found that there are always sources of light. Steve, my mother’s boyfriend, showed me that I was worthy of acceptance and respect. He and my mom never married, but I called him my stepdad, as he was more of a parent to me than either of my biological parents. He kept a watchful eye on me when my mom wasn’t paying attention. He and I became close over the years, bonding over our mutual love of video games, and cartoons. With him, I felt accepted in a house full of hostility. My mom only treated me poorly when he wasn’t home.
I graduated high school in 2013, still living in my mother’s home. During this time, Steve was couch-bound. He began having medical problems after a dirt biking accident was giving him severe back pain. When he went to the doctor, they found a tumor on his spine that they found to be benign. Unfortunately, the damage from his injury had made other cells in his brain become cancerous. It wasn’t very long before we were told he had developed stage four brain cancer.
The world around me started to cave in. The man that I considered my parent was dying, and I couldn’t do anything to stop it. We had piles of bills for our home and his hospital expenses. Doctors from around Ohio tried to help, but to no avail. I gave most of my earnings from my retail job to help my mom with bills. Steve’s deterioration caused my mother to start drinking. I always wanted to be away from the house. I couldn’t stand seeing him suffer and my mom spiraling out of control.
In January 2014, Steve lost his battle against cancer. I was devastated. We knew he had a small chance of survival, but I still hoped he would be the exception. My mom suddenly began getting wasted every night. I never developed functional coping mechanisms, so I went off the deep end. I started smoking cigarettes. I’d avoid going home. I lashed out at people I cared about and struggled to find stability since a main source of it had just passed away.
There were small moments during this time when I let myself have enough space to think, always resting on Steve’s memory. I knew he wouldn’t have wanted me to destroy my life, so I decided to pull myself together. I got a tattoo of the brain cancer awareness ribbon in his honor. I still look to it for strength. If I had the urge to do something destructive or want to break down, I’d stop and think, “what would Steve think?” Asking myself that question encouraged me to heal.
I adjusted the mindless routine I had grievously established. I began living again. I quit the job that made me miserable. I spent more time with my friends that reminded me that better times were ahead. In the spring of 2016, I started getting closer with the girl that is now my girlfriend. I realized there wasn’t anyone better for me than her. We’ve been together ever since.
Towards the end of 2016, my mom broke the news that she had been dating someone new, and that he was moving into our house. I asked my mom to wait. Her new boyfriend drank more than my mom, and I could see toxic nature of their relationship. Though my mother and I butted heads, I thought she would side with me. I thought she wouldn’t dare risk our relationship again, especially after all I had been through in my childhood. But as I pleaded, my mother chose her boyfriend, and immediately kicked me out. It was as if my mother only wanted me when it was convenient. I felt alone.
With nowhere to go, my girlfriend’s parents offered to take me in. I moved into their spare room and tried to recover from my mother’s betrayal. I chose to fill my head with the newfound acceptance I found in my girlfriend and her parents. I tried to forget how disposable I had been to my mother, and instead remember that I had had people who cared about me. Even though I filled this new home with my baggage, these people welcomed me. It was the first time I had felt overwhelming kindness since Steve’s death.