When I was in my middle school years, I used to fantasize about being adopted and that my real parents would come find me someday. Sometimes, I still do! I longed to go to boarding school but knew it would not be an option because that would cost money. Money was for my parent’s cigarettes. I loved reading stories about boarding school as well as watching “The Facts Of Life.”
I wished I had someone to confide in back then. I had no one. We were a family of five and we all lived under the same roof. We did not live near relatives and had no close relationships with others. I felt isolated and alone both in my family and outside the doors of our house. There was a jail cell that surrounded me wherever I went. Life felt cold and dark.
I was too afraid to talk to anyone about my life for fear they would go straight to my parents and that would have just stirred up all kinds of hell. Running away crossed my mind more than once but I always overthought it and imagined being returned home. It seemed flying under the radar was my best option. There was so little peace already. I just did not want to rock the boat. I tried to overcompensate by being the perfect student and always on my best behavior. It has taken me years to deal with my silent trauma.
The book that I am writing details this much more. Mental illness is a real disease and it affects not just the one diagnosed but all that are close to that person as well. In my case, setting my mother off was a lot like setting off a grenade.
The one thing that I relied on heavily was my love for reading. My love of reading had developed much earlier and has proven to be one of the greatest gifts God gave to me. Once when I was around four years old, my mother took me to the dentist. Bear in mind, this was BEFORE that switch inside her had flipped. I noticed one of those card type displays with the postage paid post cards that you could mail in and they would send you books! I sat outside every day for six weeks waiting for the mailman. It wasn’t until my first book arrived that my parents became the wiser. I started screaming and yelling like I had won the lottery, “MY BOOK CAME! MY BOOK!” That was followed by the inquisition. “Book, what book?” I showed them what was to be the first in a series of Christian Children’s Books. Yes, a series that they would have to pay for. They agreed to allow me to keep that book along with the ones that would follow and made me promise never to mail anything that I did not show them first. Deal. I spent endless hours in those books. I used to pretend that I wrote them. Sometimes, I would stand in front of my imaginary class and deliver lectures. Most of the time, I just got lost inside the imaginary world that I found inside of the covers of those books. From that moment on, reading and the desire to write has been at the core of my being.
Getting back to the middle school years (AFTER my mother’s internal switch had flipped) I discovered the library summer reading program. I could borrow endless books and receive a prize at the end of the summer. I read and I read and I read. I was transported right into each story. I was safe. It was magical. Life in the stories was full of vibrant colors and it was never cold like in our house (to this day, I cannot stand being cold!) I felt such a complete contentment and was always sad when I reached the last page. I also began writing. I would write stories and store them in a box under my bed. I wanted to create stories that could make people happy just as these did for me. I am not sure how many books I read that summer but I seem to recall the number to be around thirty. I received the coupon for my prize, which I think was a single person pizza that my mother insisted should go to my sisters. The prize that I had received from all of those stories has lasted me a lifetime so I am not fretting over pizza!
Soon after life started to get even more complicated and I began to find my escape in different places. Not the healthiest people or places either. I am saving those details for my book.
It seems that my love for reading, writing and my lifelong experience of dealing with my mother’s mental illness and perhaps my father’s undiagnosed mental illness were gifts meant for me to share. I certainly hope that as I proceed that the child who was, is, and could easily be me gets their hands on my future writing and feel they have a friend, someone who understands and most of all who cares.
For now, I leave you with this: What may seem to be perfect from the outside looking in may not be so. Sometimes those that try so hard may be just like me, hiding beneath it all.
I have come out on the other side. I give God the glory and praise for that. All of the times that I thought I had no one, He was there. Just today, I re-read one of those original books that I got lost in that summer so many years ago. It was written in 1912 and no doubt it was written just for me almost sixty years before I ever entered the world. The writer will never know how our lives intersected and how much her writing impacted me. She helped me escape a terrible place and helped to fertilize the dream that God had placed in my heart. She never even knew.
I want to be used just like that! Fertilizer.
Until Next Time,