Written by DH Women’s Program, alumni family member, Beth O. March 2017
When I grew up, my mother was our caretaker and did everything for us. She put us through dance and gymnastics classes, voice lessons, drove us to soccer games and saved every last dollar from her two jobs to give us everything we needed and wanted. She was strong, smart and our rock when my father left us during the times we needed him most. I was in middle school and my sister was in elementary school. These were the years we needed our father, but he suffered from depression and never quite got out of it. I never knew that someday I would have to become the “parent.”
Over the years, I saw my mother’s mental health deteriorate. She started to lose energy and she just wasn’t herself anymore. I know she never got over my father leaving us. I started to wonder if she too would become depressed. She started to show serious signs of depression when she drank an entire bottle of wine and mixed painkillers with them. She ended up hospitalized and went to treatment shortly after. Here I was at 22 years old, trying to put the pieces together. I was trying to help my mother break free from her sadness and abandonment of my father so she could reclaim her life again.
I realized that sometimes people hang on to pain and they never channel that negative energy into something better and fulfilling. I can look at the positive side and think, “I’m glad my father left when he did because we didn’t have to clean up his mess anymore or deal with financial problems having to take care of him any longer.” I can also appreciate the fact that his leaving us was probably the best thing to happen because he was verbally abusive and it was frightening to see the impression he left on my mother. We lived happily for many years when he left. I never thought it would lead to my mother so depressed. When you don’t take care of yourself and when you don’t seek help to talk about underlying issues like my mother had, addiction can start to fester.
I took a stand against it. I helped her into treatment in 2015 and since then she has been doing much better. She is starting to accept the fact that not every man has the capacity to be a good father or husband and that it’s not a reflection of who you are. We don’t need to know why. Why could be a thousand reasons, it can be a chemical imbalance or mental disorder, it could be an abusive past they dealt with, it could be selfishness… we don’t know. No matter what the case may be, we are each our own person. We deserve love, we deserve to be happy and we deserve not to let the burden of others take over our lives. I believe that everything happens for a reason and the reason is that we were made to be stronger and appreciate good people that do enter our lives.
My mother went on to meet a great man in one of her support groups. I married my husband who I met in Al-anon. His sister and niece struggled with depression and alcohol so we understood each other and connected in many ways. If I didn’t experience the negative emotions with my father, then I wouldn’t be able to truly appreciate a kind and loving man who I know will be an amazing father to my kids someday.
Sometimes, we have to see the light at the end of the tunnel and truly believe it. We have to believe good things can and will happen if you let them and surround yourself with people you can trust in a supportive community. The universe will bring you what you give it. So put out good energy and channel that into love and acceptance. You don’t have to forgive someone for what they did, but you have to accept that’s who they are. It’s no reflection of you, but you must forgive yourself.