Happy Mother’s Day, Self

Dear KJ,

I know it hurts your heart. Not just every Mother’s Day, but every day you wake up. What is written on your heart is pain, left there by the woman who was supposed to be your mother. I’m not sure that pain will ever go away. I’m not sure she will ever even acknowledge how much she has hurt your heart. But that’s okay. You realize it. You know it.

I know it’s hard. I know it hurts. But you’re still standing, broken-hearted, without a mother, but still very much alive.

The things in this card are things your mother should have taught you. A hug should have never been painful; it should have been full of love and care. But you have that now. It may have taken long, but now you have people to hug you without the pain and the hurt, rather with the love and support you deserve.

I know you still feel weak and lost. You are still trying to find your way in the world. Your mother should have taught you these things, but she didn’t. She didn’t know how to be a good mom. But that’s okay. You are learning now. You are starting to trust people. It’s not at all like she told it was, You can trust. Keep trusting. You may have had a late start, but you are making your way. You’re doing it, even without her. You had to build your own foundation, with the help of others, but it’s getting so strong and solid and stable now.

You taught yourself how to be strong. You had to in order to survive. And you survived. You stood alone most of your life, when your mother should have been the one standing beside you, it was just you. But you still survived. Because you were born with a strength that could never and can never be taken away. That strength came from within you, and now you are sharing that strength with the world. You are so so strong.

You had to learn ways to survive that no child should ever have to learn. She wouldn’t let you be successful, but look at you now. You’re in graduate school with a 4.0, you’re a successful writer, and most of all you are a beautiful person inside and out. And you did that all on your own.

She did not teach you kindness, only cruelty. Yet somehow, some way, you learned how to be kind, you learned how to love. You didn’t need your mother for that. You have others there to support you now. You had (and have) yourself. So many people have been touched by your kindness. Listen to them. Remember when Sarah told you how you were so intelligent and so caring and so kind, even when you came from a place where none of those things existed? It’s the truth. You did that. Somehow you did that.

You spent your childhood having no one care about you, having no one believe in you. But you cared, and somewhere deep down, you believed. That’s why you kept going. That’s why you tried to stay alive, even when it was so much easier and so much less painful to die.

There are angels on this earth. You are one of them. I’m sorry your mother wasn’t. You deserved that angel. You deserved that mother. But even though you didn’t have it, you did it yourself. You became your own angel, your own teacher, your own believer, your own mother.

You deserve this as much as anyone else. Love yourself. Celebrate the mother inside of you that you had to be when no one else was there, when she wasn’t there. You were your own mother. You helped yourself survive, through love and care. Remember that.


KJ Continue reading

There’s no need for any doctors

I’ve been dealing with a significant medical issue for the last ten days.

And when I say dealing with, I mean actively avoiding, pretending it’s not happening, and keeping my mouth shut about it, hoping it will resolve on its own. Because you know, that’s how I handle most things in my life. That’s how I was taught to handle most things in my life.

Medical avoidance is my norm. That is one thing I have carried on from my mother. She only took us to the doctor when it was required (because of school forms) or when I was near death. And even then, I was made to feel like it was some kind of burden on her for me to be sick.

Well before I was diagnosed with asthma at age 14, I kept telling my parents that something was wrong. I had to struggle to catch my breath. I felt like I was suffocating.

“It’s just allergies.”

Except it wasn’t just allergies. I suffered for a long time until my lungs filled up with so much fluid that I could no longer breathe. It wasn’t until then that my mother finally took me to the doctor. I probably would have died if she had waited any longer.

By then, the damage was already done. I spent the next 14 years in and out of hospitals, battling pneumonia and lung infections, living off of oral steroids and liquid Albuterol just to stay alive (and for those that may not know, oral steroids are simultaneously the best and the worst drugs ever).

I always waited until the very last minute to seek medical treatment. Concerned friends would tell me I was turning blue. “I’m alright, just cold,”I’d tell them. Then within the week, I’d be in the ER on oxygen. I wasn’t cold, I knew what was coming. I just was taught to think that I didn’t need medical care. I grew up believing that I didn’t deserve medical care.

And I’m still practicing that belief. I went to the doctor back in March, with my therapist, after her consistent prodding and encouragement. It was at that appointment that I was diagnosed with COPD. I haven’t been back to the doctor since. My prescription ran out, and I’ve been living unmedicated for months now.

I think I’m doing just fine, considering. My therapist is not as inclined to think so. We were discussing the impending hospitalization, and her reasons for wanting me to go. She mentioned me not receiving medical care.

“I don’t need medical care, I’m fine.”

“You have COPD, and you’re not getting treatment for that.”

“Yea but I don’t need it, I’ve been okay.”

“For now. But that’s not just something that can be put to the side.”

On a deeper level, I still feel undeserving of care. That ties into my even deeper belief that I am undeserving of love, and undeserving of life. Maybe I have COPD because I am undeserving of oxygen. Who knows.

I wasn’t even going to tell my therapist about my current issue. I had already endured enough of her semi-lecturing this session. But I found myself immensely tired during session. My therapist assumed it was related to not wanting to talk about the difficult stuff (which I admit, in the past, it has been). I kept telling her this was different, and she asked how I knew it was.

I finally told her what’s been going on. I knew it was just going to further prove her point about me needing to go to the doctor. Luckily for me, I squeezed in my admission right at the end of session, so I didn’t have to talk about it all that much. I’m sure I will hear about it on Thursday. Hopefully by then, the issue will be resolved and I can just say “see, I told you I was going to be fine.”

Or, it won’t. Either way, I’ll sit there and say everything is okay. I could be bleeding to death, and I’ll still tell you I’m okay.

That’s what I did in childhood. That’s what I do today.


I was going to bake a cake today, just to do something nice for myself and to detract from Father’s Day emotional turmoil.

I used to love baking. I could bake anything: brownies, cookies, pies, cupcakes. I was especially known for my pineapple upside-down cake. People would over me money just to bake things for them. I did it for free because I was more than satisfied just seeing other people happy. I was good at baking, and I was good at making people smile.

But as I started baking more, my mother became more angry. She’d yell at me for using up all of her electricity. She’d yell at me for using her oven (it wasn’t even hers – we rented). She’d yell at me for making the house hot. She’d yell at me for taking up space in the kitchen.

A task I once enjoyed now became another cause for punishment. I started baking less and less. People would ask me to bake them something and I would come up with excuses. I was afraid to anger my mother any more than my existence already had.

One day, against my what-should-have-been better judgment, I decided to bake a cake for a really good friend and coworker of mine. It was just one cake, I didn’t think it would be a big deal. I wouldn’t take up much space or get in anyone’s way. This should be just fine.

Then, as I was sitting at my corner of the table, putting the finishing touches of icing on the cake, my mother came in and started questioning me. I reluctantly told her who it was for. Big mistake.

You never do anything for me. You treat your coworkers better than your own mother. They don’t do anything for you. I gave you life and I get nothing! Not even a cake! It’s always about everyone else, never about your own family. I deserve better and I can’t even get a cake.

The cake ended up on the floor and I retreated to my room, crying. I was so ashamed walking into work the next day without the cake I had been so excited about making.

Just to please my mother, I started baking things for her, thinking it would earn me some sort of respect or a shred of kindness. But it didn’t. Baking wasn’t fun anymore. It didn’t give me any pleasure. My mother sucked all of the positive out of it, just as she had done with everything else in my life.

Today, as I stood in the baking aisle of the grocery store, staring at the baking supplies, I remembered that night my cake was ruined. I remembered the anger and rage my mother had. I remembered how scared I had become whenever I’d bake something. And I walked away from the aisle empty-handed.

She won today.

Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day has always been difficult for me for understandable reasons.

I’ve been dreading this weekend. I didn’t get a chance to talk about it much in therapy because some other more pressing issues have invaded my life.

My therapist said to treat myself. Buy myself flowers. Do something nice. Much in the same way I re-celebrated my mother’s birthday back in January (which ended up being a celebration of PAFPAC reaching a milestone in Facebook).

So I think that is what I’m going to do. I have to work this weekend, which is good to keep me busy somewhat. But I still have unoccupied time to fill.

I want to do all of the things I wish I could’ve done on Mother’s Day had I had a real mother. Maybe I will take myself out to dinner. Maybe I will buy myself a card. Maybe I will buy my mother a card, and write all of the things I feel like I want to say to her. Maybe I will buy myself those flowers and my favorite chocolates.

Because in truth, I was my own mother. I had to take care of myself in ways that my mother wouldn’t.

There is no special day for all of the children and adults who had to grow up with absent or abusive mothers. So what are we left to do? We have to make our own day. We have to celebrate something different.