Dear Mom and Dad,
This experience I’ve gone through with Sapphira has lit up the sleeping half of my brain which is the “I” when I say “I love myself.” The objective observer who sees through all the jibberjabber which creates a gaping space between the world and that which resonates from a pure place. “I” see. Who I was and who I want to be and who you were too. When I was 11 you were scared, embarassed, maybe? When I was 13 you were exhausted, infuriated, frustrated. When I was 15 I was asleep, I don’t remember who we were. Wen I was 17 and I overdosed on those over-the-counters I was too afraid to see you as anything but impending punishment. I do think displays of punishment were favored over displays of love in our family. When I was 11 I was probably already emotionally unstable. And then I was subjected to trauma, to abuse, screaming, being pushed around. All in the name of God. So I rejected god and everyone who sided with him. Sometimes, on the trampoline, I’d say, “If God doesn’t help me do this flip, he’s not real!” And he never did. And he never helped me escape that asylum of mental torture, not even when I begged my mother – someone I was afraid of – to please help me. “Please help me, she abuses us.”
“Show me the bruises.”
Which I couldn’t. There weren’t any on me that day. You raised your voice after, told me not to take any ugly tones with you, and stormed off. That is when god, my mother, my father, and myself abandoned me. They haven’t been reintroduced in years.
I still don’t believe in god. I never did. Not for one second. I just wanted to be a part of the so-called community my brothers were in. The youth groups, and church events. They all had friends and I had none. And I thought it was probably because they believed in god and I didn’t. But I think I may have been a pretty weird kid: obsessed with suicide. Bullied in school. I had no one.
I forgive you for not believing me, for making me feel bad about coming to you, my mother, for help when I was 11 years old and being verbally, emotionally and physically abused by a school teacher. I forgive you for sending me back there for another year after that. Mr. Barnes was a much nicer teacher, and we spent more time with him that year. I don’t think about those days very much or the years after them when I was getting in all those fights in school. I remember some really bad things happening, but I just remembered them recently and want to talk to a counselor about it before I talk to anyone else. I’m not sure how to make that happen, though.
I’m sorry for being so angry and so hostile all those years. I remember Dad took me on a nice walk out to the Lake in CC, and how nice it was being with him and he said, “Are you just always angry?” I didn’t even realize I was being aggressive. I wish you had called me out on it more often, but in a gentle way. That’s what my relationship with Sapphira is based on, brutal honesty but gently and with compassion. Please try to understand that I feel let down emotionally because you failed to help me see the extent of my disorder, my behavior, and how it was hurting you. I also know that there was a lot of fear, that I would explode, but is that a reason to just back down and give up? I’m your daughter! How afraid of me are you? I am not a monster. I’m not all-powerful. You give me too much power when you act afraid of me. When you won’t discuss things that bother me or embarrass you. When you say “I don’t want to talk about this right now.” I don’t think it’s wrong of me to ask you to just talk to me. Stop avoiding.
I think it’s time this family had some real dialogue about what has happened in my life and in yours too. I feel like so many of the things that I feel are part of my core personality are swept under the rug and taboo topics to avoid. I know that my temper has been a limiting factor in the past but I promise you it won’t be in the future. I don’t know how much time I have left to spend with my parents and I value our visits so much, I want to make sure everything is right between us before anything happens that takes away from what we have.
We are a remarkable family. My parents have been active, married and happy for so many years and I have slowly come to understand that that is a very rare and beautiful thing. To be clear, some bad things happened when I was a child, as they have in many people’s childhoods, but my parents gave me every opportunity they could. And I have plenty of happy memories to drown out the bad ones.
Mom and Dad, I hope you know that I love you both so much and appreciate everything you’ve done for me and forgive you for everything you didn’t have the knowledge or means to give me. I’m doing the best I can to make this life livable again and the month I spent living in Paggy was instrumental in my slow transition into recovery. My ultimate goal is to be mentally healthy and stable enough to help other people who have Bipolar Disorder. My experience helping my friend Sapphira felt as if I was looking back at a past version of myself, guiding me when I had no one else. And I think she sees my life here with Kylah and on the River as her future, an inspiration. Just like being gay, this illness I have isn’t a death sentence. In a way it’s become a passion and an area of strength and hopefully soon, community.
“I love you for the hardest mile we walked together,” -Andrea Gibson