Monday, March 15, 2010

When Guilt Turns into Depression...

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The summer after my freshman year, after my mother's stroke, we moved her into a nursing home. Because of her situation, I could no longer force myself to ignore this battle. Mostly each visit back to Chicago was characterized by a visit to go see my mother. During my time at school, Chicago visits had become synonymous with going to visit my mother and keeping her in good spirits. However, when I moved back to Chicago after my graduation, it hit me, no more visits to go see mommy. Grief. Guilt. I started thinking about my last visit to go see my mother. I had promised her that the next time I would see her I would be a college graduate. She smiled and although the stroke had taken her speech, she was able to utter a distorted "yay" that had the twinkle of a smile behind it.

Guilt. I remembered my sophomore year of college when my mother was placed in hospice care. I had been planning a trip down to Southern University for their Player's Ball, when I got a call stating that my mother would not make it through the week. When I got to Chicago, I feared what would be the inevitable two years later. Yet, when we got there, circumstances got a little brighter, my mother's health got a little better. She was living in spite of a prognosis of death. We sat around and joked that she devised this scheme so she could see her girls. With a twisted mouth, distorted voice, and a slight grin she uttered a "nooo." But then two years later, as I remembered my promise to my mother, the promise to be a better daughter, I wondered, what if I had came home just a little bit more. What if I never tried to build up that suspense and "surprise" her with my diploma. What if in the midst of my absence, she began to think that I didn't need her anymore and her spirits died causing her to? The what ifs took over my thoughts and the demons of guilt began to plague me.

It was Thursday, November 27, 2008, seven months after my mother's death and my first Thanksgiving without her. I was at my grandmother's house and as tradition would have us say what we were thankful for before we ate, I could think of nothing. I thought about my childhood, thought about the bodies that used to crowd around the table. My pa-pa, other friends and family and my mother. Heard all the voices of those that had gone home and I couldn't breathe. (Just like I can't breathe right now writing this post. I can't lie, right now I am bawling my eyes out, but it's therapeutic so I'll continue to write.) I thought about all those people and sadness overwhelmed me. I went into my one of the spare rooms in my grandmother's house, laid on the bed and cried myself to sleep. No food, not even granny's soul food, could comfort me. I wanted my mother. When granny came in to talk to me and tell me how "God would make a way," I rolled my eyes. I didn't want to hear about no damn god. By this time I had already stopped going to church about a month earlier.

Then less than one month later, December 25th, Christmas day. The realization of just how long forever would be, started to hit me. Words like NEVER entered my mind. I would NEVER see my mother again. I would NEVER be able to hold her hand again. I would NEVER be able to get the image of her body out of my head as it laid in her ivory casket with the golden trim. That day on Christmas, I sat in my house with the TV on watching me. Nothing to eat, but I wasn't hungry. At around 5pm, my dad had called me to see what I was doing, what I had eaten. Nothing. Nothing. My answer to both questions. He just said okay and hung up.

Six days later, New's Year's Eve, I came home from work. At seven o'clock I poured myself a full glass of Barcardi Gold Rum. That had become my drink of choice and for the past two or so months I was drinking almost everyday. Within the hour the glass was gone, and I was numb with drunkness. I slept through the New Year's countdown. It didn't seem important to me. Even though I was glad to see 2008 go, because it was the worst year of my life, 2009 wouldn't matter, because 2009 couldn't bring my mother back. 2009 wouldn't give me time to apologize for being the selfish little daughter that I had been when I was younger. 2009 wouldn't give my mother the 50th birthday that she deserved three days later on January 4th. So 2009 didn't mean a thing to me.

On Sunday, January 4th, 2009 I sat in my house with a glass of Bacardi and I sipped and cried. When my dad called me that day I tried to sound sober. "Soooo , you don't talk to anybody anymore?" he asked. "I ain't had nothing to say," I barked back. My dad was in DC on that day and wanted to know if I had went to church this Sunday. "Nope, didn't feel like it." "You haven't went to church in a while, what's up?" He asked wih a twinge of irritation, masked by concern. "Nothing." "Brittany, what's up?" "Nothing, I ain't got nothing to say to god and he ain't got nothing to say to me." My dad tried to probe into this statement, but after so many "because I don'ts" and "because he don't" my dad gave up and hung up on me. I didn't talk to him for a month.

My days began to consist of waking up, going to work, coming home, making a cocktail, crying, and going to sleep. I was in a functional state of depression. During this time I had built up a important friendship that was the epitome of intimacy and honesty. To this day I am grateful for his presence, because I believe in some way he saved my life. It was this friend who began to take a particular interest in my sleeping, eating, and drinking habits. He noticed my mood swings and forced me to talk to him because he knew the importance of me having to express my feelings in a healthy outlet.

When the Guilt of Your Past... Pt. 2

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It was April 25, 2008, two weeks and two days before my graduation. It had been a long four years at the University of Illinois and finally, the day I was waiting for, was fastly approaching. I had been watching the B'Day DVD, with all of Beyonce's recorded videos, when I my phone rang. "Imagine me, loving what I see when the mirror looks at me cause I, I imagine me..." Hearing that ringtone let me know it was one of my family members. It was my sister. "Buzz me in, I'm outside," she said. "Outside where?" "In your lobby, duh!" "Whatever, no you're not." "Yes, I am, me and daddy." "No you're not!" This convo went on for about thirty seconds. I was stalling. Throwing things in closets to "straighten up," just in case this wasn't a prank.

Sure enough, when I stepped outside my apartment, the first apartment in the corridor, I saw my daddy and sis through the hallway door. I was estatic! I ran up to my daddy giving him hugs and kisses, just like a daddy's girl should. To what did I owe this pleasure? I remembered asking that about ten times in seven different ways and I got no response. My dad and sis got settled in my apartment and for about forty five minutes, my sis and I finished watching the Beyonce video together, singing and dancing. When the video went off, I searched for something else to put in the DVD player in order to entertain my guests. "Why don't you leave it off?" my dad said. I just figured he was sick of Beyonce, so it was no big deal. Then he looked at me. It was a funny look, a look in my eyes, into my soul and then he uttered the words "Mommy died."

"MY MOMMY!?!" I screamed. My dad just nodded. With that confirmation I bawled over, uncontrollable tears and the shakes. I remembered tears like this from when I was just eight years old and I woke up in the middle of the night after hearing a scream come from my mothers bedroom. When I walked in her room, I saw her shaking uncontrollably. "Mommy get up, wake up." I remembered saying. I remembered calling 911 and saying "my mommy won't wake up, she shaking and she won't wake up." I remembered those tears from when I taped a rhinestone on a spot of blood that had soaked through her mattress from when she had bit her tongue. I remembered those tears as I layed down on that spot every night and said a prayer for the mother they had declared brain dead.

Then I remembered those tears from my the summer after my freshman year in college. When I got to college I declared that I would be a better daughter to my mother, and I was even counting on the distance to help me. I had kept my promise throughout the year, but decided that I should try the "absence makes your heart grow fonder" theory, even into the summer. I had been sleep, trying to rest before work and my phone kept ringing. I looked to see my home number. I thought, "I'll call my mother back."Twice more I received a phone call and ignored it. Until finally the fourth call, I picked up. It was my mother's caregiver and she was frantic! "I came in to check on Kathy and she was lying on the floor! She wasn't saying anything and her eyes were in the back of her head! I'm so scared Brittany! I'm so scared."My mother had a stroke, brought on by complications of her MS. I panicked. Guilt. I had just talked to my mother the night before and I told her that I would call her back, but I didn't and I feared I would never talk to her again.

I remember calling my daddy's office and crying into the phone for someone to put my dad on the phone. Talking to my dad, he calmed me down and told me that he would go to the hospital. I got off the phone with him, called my job and told them I would not be coming in that day. I got on the first greyhound to Chicago to go see my mother. I remembered those tears from when I saw my mother laying in that hospital room unable to speak. I remembered them a week later, when I was in my mother's hospital room alone with her and I began to speak to her and apologize for everything I had ever done. I remembered telling her how "I didn't know." I remembered crying when I saw the forgiveness in her eyes, because I didn't think I could forgive myself.

But now on this day, April 25, the day after my mother took her last breath all those tears recycled themselves over and over again and I could not stop crying. Nothing could comfort me. Not even my daddy who had joined me on the floor and had wrapped himself over the ball that I had made myself into. That week I was a wreck. Nothing had ever felt like this before. Was I really on my way home to bury my mother? Nine days before I was to walk across the stage on Mother's day, I put my mother's body to rest. The tears had became less frequent, I had stopped sleeping the days away. I was dealing with my mother's death, or so I thought.

When the Guilt of Your Past...

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I've never been one to talk much about my mother. Something I always envied my sister for her ability to be vocal. When I was younger, it was because I was ashamed. I didn't understand Multiple Sclerosis, a disease for which my mother had been diagnosed. Then as her condition continued to fluctuate and progressively get worse, I periodically lashed out accused her of faking it and being lazy and not wanting to try harder to over come. I didn't understand how the same mind that was so sharp and strong when it came to punishing me when I did wrong was also the same mind slowly being overtaken by neurological damage.

I didn't understand and more importantly, I didn't want to. I stopped going places with my mother because I was embarrassed. I remembered the days of her walking me and my sister to the bus stop, the days of her running around the church during praise and worship, the days of her jumping up and down in our apartment hallway because she wanted to show how she was fighting MS. I remembered those days and in an effort to remember them I refused to acknowledge how things were changing.

As my mother's condition debilitated, I was able to hold on to my ignorance. I was the youngest of two, three years my sister's junior. At 14 when my sister got her first job and assumed her caretaker role, I was too young. Three years later when I was 14, I was living with my dad. I moved in him when I was 13, because while I thought I was being the typical disrespectful pre-teen, I didn't realize that my mother's condition couldn't handle the stress that my actions were placing on her. So I lived with my dad until the summer before my sophomore year, because my sister was off to college and my mother needed me. I resented this time period. I felt abandoned by my dad, and I blamed my mom. "If she was well, I would still be living with my dad."

Everyday after school, I came home and went straight to my room. I would stay in there until my mom knocked on my door and told me she was on her way to her MS meeting or on her way to church or even on her way to bed. At 16, when I should have been stepping up to the plate, I was selfishly reverting back to my childhood and refusing to be the help my mother needed. Until one day I came home from work and my mother was laying on the floor. She couldn't get back into her wheelchair, which was happening frequently. "Brittany, can you help me get up?" I struggled with my mom, for about 15-20 minutes trying to get her into her chair. The brakes weren't sturdy and the chair wasn't well built so every time I tried to lift her it slid back. So finally we gave up, for the night, and we went to sleep on the floor together. That was one of the first times her struggle REALLY hit me. By then I was 17, graduating from high school and off to college within the next three months.
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