The Sweetest Pain
By Rae Collins on July 28, 2014
I was completely numb. There were no tears just confusion because it didn’t make sense to me. I called my aunt, her oldest sister, to meet me at the hospital and told her I’d explain once she got there. When I arrived, I was asked to wait in the visiting area. The attending psychiatrist came and sat with me, explaining that she experienced a psychotic episode. He asked multiple questions regarding our family history to see if this was a pattern. I told him about the recent events that could’ve led her to be depressed but not psychotic. The memories I had of my mother were mostly good. There was nothing I could point out as “questionable”. Afterward, he escorted me to where she was being detained. I wasn’t allowed to touch her or even get close. I could only view her from the room she was being held in; she was put in a hospital gown and was laying on her face in the middle of the room. She began rolling back and forth quoting scriptures and yelling the name of Jesus. This still didn’t make sense. She was only 39.
Even then, I didn’t cry. I’m still confused.
She was there for about two weeks. Meanwhile, I was thrown into instant caretaking responsibilities; verifying her insurance and took a trip to her house. The dishes hadn’t been washed in weeks, the food in the fridge was rotten, her mail had been unopened and she was months behind in rent. I couldn’t believe what I saw. It took me two days to fully clean the apartment. I bought her new clothes, undergarments, footwear and food. When she came home, I washed her hair and clipped her nails. All of this took place while I was still working full-time and trying to salvage the little bit of sanity I still had left. Given she was religious, she was against my sexuality/lifestyle and often made it her business to make my partner feel uncomfortable. A short while later, my partner could no longer cope with what was going on and began to argue frequently. I ended the relationship, gave up my apartment and moved back in with my mom. At this point, what else did I have to lose? The plan was to stay six months, get her back on her feet and find her a good counselor. Six months turned into three years and she was hospitalized five more times.
Still…I hadn’t yet cried.
I suppressed my pain with alcohol. Jack Daniels and Jose Cuervo were my best friends. I was 23, single and still confused. There were good and bad days but every night, I’d lock my bedroom door – afraid she may hear the wrong voice and do more harm than good. We lived on the 30th floor with a patio. I would wake up in the middle of the night, every night to make sure she was still in the bed and not splattered 30 stories below. Drinking, partying and writing is what kept me sane but I started developing negative emotions: disconnection, numbness, shame, fear, resentment, anger, agitation, depression… you name it.
In my mind, I’d lost my mother. My father was around but was never there for me emotionally because of his drug addiction. I was angry and resentful that I was taking care of her instead of living my life, angry that I had to watch her every second of the day to make sure she didn’t harm herself, shameful that she was no longer “normal”, numb to the emotions I couldn’t seem to express and disconnected from the love I once had for her. For a short time, I hated her and wished it was over; wishing she’d die so the suffering would end – for the both of us. This went on until 2009.
Then I met Amy.
I didn’t allow myself to get involved with anyone because this was just too much to deal with. I saw myself, and the package I’d come with as a burden so I told her about everything upfront in hopes she’d leave me alone. I told her everything face to face and to my surprise, it didn’t faze her. Not one bit. Her response was:
“It’s not about what happens in life, it’s how you handle it. Don’t hate this experience, it’s designed to make you a stronger woman and is very much a part of the journey. Your mother’s experience has nothing to do with me loving you. You’re amazing and I want to be with you. I’m here to hold you after you’re done being superwoman.”