As I sit here looking out the window of my writing studio, it appears to be the perfect day. You certainly would never know that we experienced heavy winds and rains from Hurricane Matthew just the day before yesterday. Today, the sun is shining. A crisp kind of cool with a breeze fills the air. However, from where I sit one would never know. You just see a beautiful day. It doesn’t hurt one bit that I am wearing my black fleece lined leggings and an oversized sweater (and shhh… don’t tell my husband, I may have turned the heat on just now.) Hot mocha latte? Yes, I think so.
Both inside and outside of my window, life is good. It has not always been that way for me. Growing up, no matter what the weather, it was cold and cloudy and dark in our home. No amount of layering, blankets, hot chocolate, or even heat could have warmed that place. A change in the seasons just meant that I had survived another but life remained the same.
Our house was always in total disarray. Laundry piled up on the couch, or in baskets or on the floor. Clean, dirty. Who could tell? They all reeked heavily of cigarette smoke. I used to sneak my mother’s perfume (as I do not recall having my own) to try to cover up the smell of my (clean?) clothes before going to school. I was embarrassed and self-conscious. I once removed a picture from the wall and its outline remained in yellow from all the dense cigarette smoke.
Food was sparse. The only items that we could count on having was milk, bread, cigarettes, coffee, and Pepsi. I do not exaggerate when I say that my father told us that, as girls, we used too much toilet paper and he was not going to buy anymore and that if we wanted it, we could get it from the restrooms of public places.
My mother decided that she was tired of washing dishes so she threw them all away.
My father worked all of the time. He only came home to sleep and shower. My mother just sat in her rocking chair all day – back and forth – smoking until the ashtray overflowed. My job was to empty it. She always had a cup of coffee in hand, if not coffee – Pepsi. A cloud of smoke seemed to always encompass her. When she talked, smoke came out of her like a fire breathing dragon.
My family was living in a mental health ward – it just happened to be our home. Our lives revolved around my mother’s mood.
It absolutely breaks my heart to know that there are young children out there right now as I write this that are exactly where I was – feeling hopeless and alone. Trapped in a world where they do not want to be but perhaps knowing no other. I wish that I could reach every single one and make their lives better. I wish I could take their place as through experience I have become equipped to deal with the struggle that mental illness imposes on a family, on a child. No child should have to endure that type of darkness.
Christmas was the worst. I will detail that in another blog. Just know that not all children look forward to holidays. As a child, going back to school after Christmas and having your classmates ask what you got was horrifying. How do you tell them nothing? I got wiser and began telling them that I received clothes as gifts. I quickly learned to add that “I did not like them” otherwise they would question me as to why I was not wearing them and was still in fact wearing clothes that used to belong to Mimi, the head cheerleader, that my mother had purchased at a yard sale. Yes, Mimi made sure the whole school knew!
The path was long but is now behind me. It was not easy! However, there is hope. I now know the joy of the changing seasons, a home filled with love, laughter, warmth, and the smell of fresh baked goods! I know what it feels like to sleep with both eyes closed! That will be a story for another day.
My hope was and is in Jesus Christ. You may not feel Him, see Him, hear Him, but I promise you He is there – as close as you simply whispering His name. Whatever season you might find yourself in, and especially if you feel there is only one season, and that it will never change – I am praying for you today!
Until Next Time,