It was late October 2017 when I decided I had enough. I sat in my room hands shaking, heart racing, sweat decorating my palms. There was this feeling in the pit of my stomach, like someone had took an ice cream scoop to it. This was the feeling of reaching a breaking point.
I quickly packed all the clothes that mattered to me. I stuffed my toiletries in a bag, squeezed shoes in the nooks of my suitcase, and even made sure to bring my Casio keyboard. I took everything with me I cared about, called an uber, and left my mother’s house for the last time.
I didn’t tell her I left. I actually put my phone on ‘Do Not Disturb’ hoping to ignore her calls when they finally came in. At that moment I decided my mother would no longer be a major part of my life, even if it meant me leaving home before I was financially ready to do so.
People don’t often talk about relationships with their mother, unless it’s to the tune of “my mom is my best friend.” We don’t often hear of children who’ve had to heal from their mothers, who haven’t had the generic brand of nurturing, who’ve had to break up with their parent. That person is me.
To be clear I love my mother. To this day I would not be half the woman I am today if it weren’t for her sacrifice. She is a woman who can make a way out of no way and move mountains with her finger tips for sport. She is a survivor, so much so that she never learned to live or to love. The struggles of her life birthed in her an intense depression, isolation, anger, and a pain I never knew how to carry. No matter how hard I tried. My mother could never see past her hurt to actually see her children, and thus I didn’t learn how to see myself either.
However as an adult I wanted to break the cycle. With the help of therapy I was able to identify the trauma and the mental abuse I experienced as a child, no longer brushing it off as a normal upbringing. I recalled the moments of fear at 7 and that had morphed into anxiety in my teens. I recalled the insults at 10 that morphed into depression in my 20s. I saw her dependency on me growing to the point where I’d become her therapist, problem solver, punching bag, and only friend. Most importantly, I saw that with my age came the right to create boundaries and safe spaces for myself. I no longer had to accept my mother’s unwillingness to change. I knew she loved me, but I also knew that her love was painful. Therefore I could choose if I wanted to receive it or not.
In black families telling your parent “No” is a struggle within itself. You don’t stand up to the person that raised you. You don’t challenge their opinions. You don’t challenge how they discipline you. You don’t disagree. Many of us have traumatic childhoods we don’t even think we need healing from. Being cursed out by your parent is just a regular Wednesday night, until you grow into a depressed adult that can’t express emotion in healthy ways.
It was incredibly hard for me to find the words to challenge my mom, but I did. I told my mother that as an adult I wanted a certain kind of love and energy in my life. I’d reached a point where my own mental health had touched dangerous lows, and I wanted better for myself and for her. I deserved a healthier love, however she wasn’t ready to give me that.
I made the decision to temporarily end the relationship with my mother early this year. Abruptly leaving threw me into a world of struggle I’d never known before. I stayed in a hotel, moved in with strangers who became dear friends, until I eventually could live on my own (barely). Yet I’ve learned that even that is worth my peace of mind. There are days I miss her. I remember our good times. Times we’d laugh until tears were in our eyes, and how she was always first in line to watch me perform. Seeing others with their mothers will always be triggering, and Mother’s Day even tougher to swallow, but I don’t regret my decision.
While my mother never allowed herself space to seek success free of her emotions, I know that I can. I was blessed to be able to earn two degrees, live abroad, chase my career goals, create platforms to help others and educate myself in my own mental health. I was given the chance to be the woman my mother would have been.
I look forward to the day we mend things, that maybe months or years from now. Whenever that day comes it, I’m confident that things will work out how they should. Until then my focus has to be on filling my own cup, repairing the cracks, and becoming the best woman I can be for the both of us.