My Weekend of Rest and Reflection Turned Into a Weekend of Family and Gratitude

Weary and consumed by longing, I was caressed by my beloved last night.  My wounded soul was set free, when I tasted the sweetness of love.

My spirit was lifted at once.  I surrendered my life, while overflowing with joy, and my vision was filled with light. 

Love said, “Don’t feel so hopeless, my weary and gloomy one, for my generosity is beyond forgetting those devoted to me.”

See how boundless divine justice can be.  Behold my immeasurable kindness!  

Love embraced my spirit, and all my doubts vanished at once.  A new and glorious robe of honor was placed on my shoulders.

Love offered me the power of new vision and the transforming touch of divine generosity and placed the chalice of eternal wine in my hand.

•RUMI•

My mother was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder when I was 7.  I didn’t have a good understanding of what that meant at the time.  It meant very little to me.  I still didn’t understand that the world could be different than my own personal perspective, which was governed by emotional chaos.  

My mother was overwhelmingly loving.  There were days where we would spend hours decorating for holidays.  Halloween was one of my favorites.  We would decorate our trees, yard, and house.  My dad owned his own business and we attended the church down the road from us.  My family had lived there for a few generations so we were well known in the community.  We would get endless visitors to our home.  

She lived to serve others.  She thrived on bringing joy and light to children, families, and women.  She instilled this deep sense of giving into us early.  Not only would she give all of this to her own children, but she would also give it to the children in the community, schools, churches, etc.  

There were days that seemed like there could be no end to her generosity or her love.  She had a deep faith in God, and her light shone even in our most difficult of times. 

I loved this part of my mother with all of my being.  Oh, how I longed for her endless devotion in these moments.  It was consolation to my deeply wounded heart. 

Just as radiant and giving as she was, she also harbored a dark side that so many failed to see.  I expect my father, brother, and myself witnessed the most destructive aspects of this version of her.  It mostly stayed hidden within the walls of my childhood home, and it was unspeakably frightening.  Just as endearing and safe as she made us feel, at any given moment this could be ripped from our lives and replaced with an entirely different person.  

This person despised the world and all of those within it, especially her husband and children for we could never meet her unspoken expectations.  No one could.  They were entirely irrational and fear inducing.  I would escape deep into the woods of our home, often traveling so far from human contact that I don’t know that anyone could have heard me had I screamed.  


We had a beautiful creek in a deep valley behind our home that emptied into the lake.  There was a deep pool in the creek with an overhang and a nice tree.  It was hidden by other overhangs, so that you would have to either travel the creek bed or climb the tree to see it.  This was my safe place.  

There were many days that I would fall asleep on a bed of moss here only to awake to my dad yelling for me as the sun crept behind the trees.  I would run to my dad.  He would hold my hand and we would walk silently up the hill back to our home.  He would make dinner for my brother and I, and none of us would speak of the darkness permeating our home.  We would secretly pray that some light would find its way into our home again in the coming dawn. 

I spent my days in a constant strife of never feeling fully safe in my home.  She went on medication, but didn’t really know how to navigate a system that confused her and didn’t see her fully.  They lacked the insight to see her radiance, love, and light.  They focused so much on her shortcomings.  This happened because x, y, z.  She was thrown into a scientific world of logic when she existed in an ever changing wavering of emotion.  She tried with all of her might to fight a battle that she didn’t understand.  

In addition to this, she also expressed her trauma in physical illness.  She had her gallbladder removed.  She had chronic pancreatitis that would also align with her bouts of darkness.  Looking at this from the spiritual perspective, with my mental health background, these all align on a deep level.  Her solar plexus was impacted from her perception of her external world, which manifested itself physically in her body.  

However, how do you explain this to someone?  How do you explain years of research, theory, and intuition to a loved one?  I have no idea, but it doesn’t stop me from trying.  Logic doesn’t always work, but I can count on love to find a way.

When I was in middle school, her symptoms were being managed by an overwhelming amount of medications, that only seemed to deepen the issue.  Further and further we continued to travel down this rabbit hole in which the entire power of our family was being held in the hands of a system that didn’t see us as human.  At least not fully so.  

She was finally prescribed pain medications since there wasn’t anymore they could do.  Is that what is done with “hopeless” cases these days?  I often wonder.  First it was Loritabs, then OxyContin, then Morphine.  

It was kind of nice at first.  The darkness was quiet.  The chaos was gone.  She mostly slept a lot after getting home from work.  If she wasn’t sleeping then she was watching television.  She still spent time with us, but without the darkness, there also wasn’t any light.  

My interest in mental health began at this time.  I started picking up psychology books at yard sales and the library.  By the time I was 14, I owned the first three versions of the DSM.  I kept post it notes and highlights within them, trying to understand all of my environment.  I so desperately wanted to empathize with something that I also didn’t understand.  Where did my mother go?  Where did that version disappear?  How can I retrieve her?  I knew deep in my heart that she was somewhere in there.  Oh, how I missed her and yearned for that love again.  

I studied relentlessly.  I took AP classes in high school.  I achieved a full scholarship to a top state university.  I wanted to know.  I wanted to understand.  I wanted to help.  I wanted my mother.  

My life took a turn as my own self sabotage that comes with damage began to surface.  However, that yearning remained.  I didn’t stop.  I graduated high school and worked my way through my undergraduate as a single mother.  However, once I moved away from home, it was as if my mother said, “My work here is done.”  She applied for and received disability and no longer had to work.  

This was one of the worst possible things that happened to our family.  She no longer had any reason to be sober throughout the day and she dove head first into a prescription pain pill addiction that was unfathomable to me at the time.  I lost my mother for several years.  Her body was alive, but her soul was dead.  Completely dead.  Her light had gone out. 

My desperation grew as I was still struggling to manage my own adult life.  I graduated early with my undergraduate degree in social work.  I took more classes than I was advised, and still graduated as top of my class.  I worked through my graduate degree in a year, while attending school in another state, and working full time.  

By the time I graduated, I couldn’t allow my mother around my child anymore.  She couldn’t even remain standing or speak legibly.  I hadn’t seen her sober in years.  She was constantly having wrecks and truly should have had her license revoked.  

I finally said, “No more.”  I gave up hope.  The light was completely gone, and I had the capacity to stop her darkness from being entangled with my son.  I was ready to let her go.  I was ready to say goodbye and not see her again.

It was one of the most difficult moments of my life.  I had hosted the family holidays for many years at that point, since she wasn’t functional.  I called her Christmas Eve morning before our dinner.  I had spent all morning prepping for our meal, and I finally said to myself, “I don’t want her here.  I cannot love someone who is already dead.”

So I called her, and I asked her not to come.  She asked me why.  I told her all of this.  I told her I wanted my mother and I cannot have her.  I told her that I accept that and I love her.  I told her that my love for her will never go out.  I told her that she lit a fire deep within me as a child, and it still burns for that version of her so many of us have forgotten.  


I cried so hard that I actually water logged my iPhone.  My husband went and got me a new one while I told my mother goodbye on his phone.  I told her that I was there for her as long as the drugs were gone.  I told her I would never give up on her.  

She came that evening, with all of her prescription pills.  We flushed them down my toilet as she cried.  For the first time in years, though, I saw a flicker of light.  She could stand up.  I could understand her speech.  I held her just as she used to hold me.  My husband also held her, and talked of overcoming his own drug addiction.  He told her straight to her face that it was the hardest battle and continues to be the hardest battle he fights every day.  

My brother wouldn’t hug her, but quietly told her he hoped she could do it.  He had tremendous animosity for our childhood.  He spent many of his years protecting me when he was also a child.  He hated her and wasn’t shy about it.  

My father also hated her.  He hated her weakness.  He hated her shell.  He hated her darkness.  He hated her existence.  And most of all, he hated their codependency, because all of those things were reflected back at him.  

I set her up with a substance abuse counselor.  I went the first couple of sessions.  I gave her my copy of Narcotics Anonymous.  And then I quit my job as a therapist.  I was exhausted.  I was burned out.  I promptly moved to another state with my family and began to focus on the solidarity between us.  My work with my family of origin was done.  All the remaining work rested solely upon their shoulders.  It was time for me to begin working on my own healing.


In the few short years that I moved away, my mother left my father.  This was a deep and hurtful wound.  My father was solidly present with us amidst our darkness.  I also empathized with her because their marriage clearly wasn’t healthy at that point.  He wasn’t in a place of forgiveness after the years of torment and she needed love in her life.  

Deep down I wondered if I sabotaged my family.  I still maintained my distance and boundaries, holding nothing but good will and peace for everyone.  

I watched at a safe distance as everything fell to shambles.  Implosion would be a kind word, however, my mother managed to maintain her sobriety.  She was cut off from everything she had known, so she rebuilt from the ground up.  

It was slow.  It was heart breaking.  It was painful.  It was beautiful.  She stepped into her personal power over and over again.  She started voicing her needs and distancing herself from negativity.  She began embracing the love that came her way.  She set firm boundaries that spoke of her personal value. 

This weekend, for the first time in many years, I attended a dinner party that she successfully hosted.  Her home is small and modest, but one she pays for on her own and is filled with things she loves.    

She used to have a habit of hosting dinner parties and then getting so stoned that she couldn’t cook.  Since I was a teenager, I would cook large meals for people just to help cover up her addiction.  She wasn’t present enough to acknowledge the work I did.  I would sit quietly as everyone bragged on her meal and try to release the anger that welled up inside of me.  She would often scream and cry in absolute depression about how overwhelmed she was as I cooked a meal that I never desired in the first place.

My mother made the entire meal and invited my family.  It was a meal to honor her own mother who turned 86.  It was the first time her mother agreed to come to her new home.  Her mother also happened to invite her sister, who was 88.  My mother’s brothers came with their wives and their adult children.  Their adult children brought their children.  My brother and his wife also came.  My mother’s 2 bedroom home was so overflowing with people that we were spilling out onto the deck and into the yard.

Her brothers and family tried to throw negativity at her but it just rolled off of her beautiful coat of gratitude.  She radiated love and happiness, crying tears of joy.  All evening, all she could do was express how thankful and blessed she was.  

For the first time since my early childhood, I saw my mother’s light shine so brightly that no negativity could burden her.  She had created the strength and power to repel it.  

For the first time since my early childhood, I experienced the mother I once knew.  My brother smiled and hugged her.  She played with my son with a deeply satisfied grin.  She was pleased as everyone bragged on her meal with smiles.  

And I finally saw my first and deepest childhood desire come to fruition at age 30.  

Parenting is the most difficult thing I have ever encountered.  It is life changing to look at the mirror of your children.  I am grateful to have a mother who can model strength, determination, and love that can come out of even the darkest of places.  I have never had a deeper appreciation for her than I did Sunday evening because I know that all of this work was done for herself, her children, and for my children.  

I love her for it.  

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