I am… still here

I am a mother trying to do her best
I wonder if my mother felt this way too
I hear people tell me that I’m not her- that I won’t hurt them like she hurt me
I see my happiness but I can’t always feel it
I want to do right for my children
I am trying so hard every single day.

I pretend that I am not always hurting
I feel like a liar and a fake
I touch their cheeks while they sleep
I worry- of course
I cry and hate myself too often
I am a woman trying to be a person

I understand how lucky I truly am
I say that I will keep myself safe
I dream of what quiet could feel like
I try to stop thinking and follow the rules that I set for myself
I hope that my children don’t hurt like I do
I am proud of each day I live to give them a mother

spirit driftwood


This “I am” poem is the third iteration I’ve written.
The first two were in 2013. You can read them here and here

Linking up again for Old School Blogging. Thanks to Kim @ makemommygosomethingsomething.com for the inspiration.

It never really happened

I am about to dive into some murky memories.

These aren’t quite blog posts but they need to be written somewhere. As I start to let them in, I can see them playing out in my head like scenes from a movie. It’s a very weird movie, this movie of my life. So, I will write them here – in whatever incomplete state they come to me. I might use analogies or speak in third person. I might go back and edit or add to certain stories after they have been published (something I don’t do with my blog posts). I don’t know where this will go. But this is part of telling my story.

It’s the story of growing up with a father who had given up on life and a mother who was self-described, “Benevolent Dictator”; and who has never seen any mental health professional but has been diagnosed by her family as suffering from Borderline Personality Disorder. She is a narcissist with a masters degree in manipulation.

I hope that telling this story- bringing it out of the dark and facing my own shame at having been a part of this, will allow me to close the book on the past and move forward with the rest of my life.

You marry your father?

They say that you sometimes subconsciously marry a man just like your father.

But my husband is warm and loving. He’s not anything like the father I had hiding behind a mustache and a newspaper. So this saying clearly doesn’t apply to me.

But maybe it does. There was a gentle and kind man in my home for a few weeks. I think he gave me more paternal love in three weeks than my father ever had. He is very much like my husband.

When I was 6 years old, my family volunteered through the synagogue to host an Israeli war veteran in our home for ten days. Zacharia Dagan came into our house with a funny name and only a few words of English. He gave me a huge hug when he met me and then he lifted me up onto his shoulders, where I stayed for the duration of his trip.

With Zachy and the rest of the group, I got taken to every family friendly attraction in Toronto. And he made me feel like he was excited that I was there with him. We went to the zoo, Canada’s Wonderland, bbq’s at parks, a waterpark. And…my parents were on their best behaviour. No fighting, no yelling, no freak outs – we had a guest in the house. It was amazing.

A year or two later, my family visited Israel. Zachy picked us up from the airport in a huge van that he had rented just for us and drove us to his house in a small town. His huge family was waiting for us with food and hugs. He had a beautiful garden with fruit trees and vegetables growing. His children were all so beautiful and kind. They even slept on their roof one night so that we could sleep in their rooms. They set up tables in their backyard and we ate amazing dinners there. It was a huge novelty for a young Canadian to see how the outdoors was really an extension of their home. I wanted to stay.

Ten years later, I visited Zachy and his family again for one night while I was in Israel on a youth trip. They sent me home with a huge bag of snacks for the plane. I’d never been packed a lunch like that.

Another ten years later, Zachy and his wife came to vacation in Toronto to stay in our house for a few weeks. I was in my early twenties and the only one in the house who sorta spoke their language.

So, as my mother did when she offered to babysit her grandkids, she left me with the responsibility of hosting the guests each day. I had a great time with them. I took them to the CN tower and around town and up to the cottage.

I loved seeing how much love Zachy showed when he held my baby nieces and nephews. I loved helping his wife make delicious mint tea.

My husband is my best friend. We met when I was 15 and I’ve loved him ever since. He is not just a guy who “fit the mould” he is amazing in his own right. But in retrospect, the similarities are noticeable.

My husband is from a big Israeli family. He is strong and confident on the outside and warm and loving to the core. As a teenager, he cared for his baby sister more gently and with more love than I’d ever seen.

When I met my future father-in-law for the first time, I noticed that his hands looked big and warm just like Zachy’s and his cologne (or maybe it was the cooking smells) smelled similar. His parent’s house sounded like Zachy’s and their dinner table looked like his. It was like I’d subconsciously come home.

Maybe I was lucky, maybe I was smart. But now my children get to be held each day by grandparents who are gentle and warm and genuinely glad to see them. And on Friday nights, they get lovingly hoisted up on shoulders- just like my “dad” did with me for two amazing weeks.

Zachy was the only man who ever cared for me like a loved child and made me feel like I deserved space in his world and in his heart. I think that from him, I learned that there are people with a different kind of love to give and so I searched and when I found one, I held on tight.


The food of love

“We all have positive memories of being fed.”-Michael pollen quote from “cooked”

My positive memories of food seem to give me a clue as to my current diet:
Here they are:
-coming home from summer camp for lunch and having a swim or time alone with my mom and eating Kraft dinner for lunch. I even love the smell of the water on the bottom of a pot burning on the stove because it reminds me of that.
-eating a pb&j sandwich (that I made myself) on a weekend winter hike with my science teacher ( and her random boyfriend) when i was 14.
-teaching myself how to cook rice on the stove and eating a bowl of rice with soya sauce for dinner when I was home alone on a Saturday night when I was 14.
-eating a fried egg that I cooked myself.
-eating and feeling warm in the kitchen at my friend avi’s 8th birthday party. Her mom made us mushroom barley soup.
– eating all the chocolate chip oatmeal cookies that my sister would bake when we were alone.
– eating instant oatmeal in the morning around the time that my dad did the same. (But not quite together)
– my mom and brother cooking spaghetti and meat sauce together in the warm kitchen. This might have just happened once but it felt nice.

–>these are all times when I ate without guilt and felt nourished/satisfied by the food. And these are all the foods i feel comfortable eating today. I guess there is a connection.

Here are some not so great food memories:
– coming home from school at 3pm on Fridays and having to help prepare dinner the entire evening and not being allowed to eat until dinner was served at 7pm.
– the smell of salmon steak poached in the microwave which meant I’d not be getting dinner that night.
– stirring stir fry forever.
– trying to take a snack and getting shamed for not preparing enough for others.
– sneaking crackers and cream cheese.
– eating a cucumber and salt for dinner after dinner time.
– eating a plain bagel for lunch and the inside is still sorta frozen.
– learning how to bake lemon squares when I was 14 and then eating them until I felt sick. And then being asked/told to make them each time we were invited somewhere.

to tell the truth

Truth wasn’t ever really a thing for me. It didn’t exist outside of circumstance.

The Queen (my mother) would simply decide quickly if she was going to agree with what you were saying (thereby making it the truth) or if she felt like yelling at you (which means you must have lied).  Like the Queen of Hearts, my mother was a fickle judge who would intimidate the jury and force the hand of the executioner.

I didn’t realize until recently that most people actually know when they are lying. I would never really know if my words were the truth or not until I saw her reaction.

mom: “why didn’t you call me when you got to your friend’s house?”
9 year old lyla: (honestly) “i forgot.”
mom: “what’s the real reason? why didn’t you call me!!! *yell*shame*threat*”
9 year old lyla: “i um.. um.. her sister was on the phone until now.”
mom: “oh. okay.” (satisfied with the lie rather than the truth)

Playing dumb works too. The “I have no recollection of that conversation where you asked me to do that. Maybe you never asked or I’m going crazy but we’ll never know and you can’t blame me.” That answer actually works really well with her- because she also thinks that the truth is only truth if others believe it. Therefore, a lie is the truth if others believe it. Therefore, nothing is real and whatever is easy is what you should say.

Trying to tell my mother that her impression of reality was not the truth was like putting your head in a lion’s mouth. Why would anyone do that? Honor? Not worth it.

mom: “It’s too bad your daughter doesn’t have our beautiful blue eyes.”
29 year old Lyla: “My eyes aren’t blue anymore Mom.”
mom: “Yes they are, people used to always stop me on the street to tell me how beautiful your blue eyes are.”
29 year old Lyla: “I know but they aren’t blue anymore, they’ve changed colour as I’ve gotten older, there’s yellow in them and they are more green. See.” (moving closer to mother so that our noses almost touch)
mom: “I know what color your eyes are! I don’t need to look. Why are you getting so mad at me!@! You are so sensitive. ok ok, (sarcastic) You don’t have blue eyes. Sooorrry…. Nobody ever tell Lyla that she has blue eyes or she’ll yell at you.”

(That story also illustrates my mother’s inability to see me as I actually am. But that’s for another day.)

Having her ask you a question was like her holding your head under the guillotine with her other hand holding the blade…waiting. The actual truth was never relevant. The most appeasing answer told convincingly, was rewarded with being allowed to take your head out of the guillotine for a moment. (but you’re still up on the executioner’s platform as long as you’re in her presence.) Think fast. Answer calmly. Read her mood. Figure out what she needs to hear…and say it!

Even as an adult, when I have to answer for my actions to others, I always feel like I’m lying.

If you ask me what I ate for breakfast, I’m not sure if I should tell the truth (oatmeal) or lie (a bagel) or play dumb (I can’t remember) or lie big (I was going to have oatmeal but my daughter spilled the jar on the floor so i had to clean it up and then i just had tea and took them to Tim Hortons). There’s really no benefit to me in any of those answers and it’s such an innocuous question that it shouldn’t cause me stress… but it does.

(note: even in writing that I had oatmeal today, i’m not sure if i should write something more interesting for the purposes of your reading enjoyment or maybe i should say that i had yogurt because i want you to think that i’m someone who eats yogurt on Fridays. this makes no sense and is unnecessarily stressful. welcome to my brain.)

Last Tuesday, I had to leave work 15 minutes early for a therapy session. I could have just said it was a doctor’s appointment (which it was) but then I may get a raised eyebrow about always going to the doctor and then he’d think that I’m lying (even though I wasn’t). So instead I lied and told my boss some convoluted story about my mother in law having a work emergency and being late to pick up my kids so I had to run to get them. Stupid.

I actually felt safer in that lie than the truth.

I hate to be one of those people who blames everything on her mother but, to tell the truth, I’m pretty sure lots of the shit I do and fears I have are her fault.

guest post: the bear at the door

My sister, Lilac, has asked to share some of her memories here in this space. She hopes that her words will validate mine. But I think that they will serve to illustrate just how different our experiences were in the same madhouse. Maybe they are more similar than I want to think. You decide. 

I (Lilac) had a dream last night about a bear. The bear was hovering around outside and I kept looking our the window in fear. And the bear rang the doorbell and was casually waiting outside the door. Seriously waiting. Like starting off into the middle distance waiting. I laughed about it in my dream.

And then I went and told dad because I thought he would think it was funny too and he said, “There’s a bear? Just let it in.” And he said “Don’t worry-see,” as he opened the door. And I was terrified and freaking out.

And the bear walking in on all fours (it had been on its hind legs previously) and it was harnessed in a complicated body harness and pulling a heavy cart. It was like a depressed circus bear and I recognized it was lost in the load it was carrying and harmless. So dad and I just watched it.

Then… (scary part coming)…

The bear zoomed in and it turned to me knowing I was looking and enraged that I was watching the bear. It started growling and reared up. Suddenly it’s no longer harnessed and I had to hide in a little book behind a knee wall that was (in the dream) beside the kitchen.

And I kept my face down as the bear approached me and roared and (screamed right?) at me. It was a spitting roaring bear on all four paws in my face and i was avoiding eye contact and hoping it wouldn’t kill me.

Then it ended. The bear walked away back to dad and I ran into the basement. Briefly. I came back up and no one was there.

The feeling was that the bear could return at any time but everyone left without me. I was alone in the cottage and not sure where I was safe!! (sound familiar?) – the end –

…and all because dad refuses to believe a bear at the door is dangerous.

what’s in a name?

My mother never bothered to remember my name.

It’s not that she couldn’t remember my name. She could list off her four children (only in order of age). She just didn’t think it was important which name went with my face.

As a kid, teenager and adult, my mother would look at me and say “S.J., Zeed, Lilac….what’s your name kid?”

As I got older, I was more often just called by my eldest sister’s name S.J.  Usually, I would correct her, “I’m Lyla. You called me S.J.”  She would never apologize, “At least I used a name that was close.” She would say, “Just get that blue serving dish from the pantry for me.”

We were all the same to her. The four of us. She was a different person with each of us. We got to know her moods and whims so well. We studied her. A look, a turn of the mouth, I knew what it all meant.

But she couldn’t be bothered to remember my name.



the loaded hug

I’ve never told anyone this story. I guess it’s funny or not a big deal, but it’s hard for me to see it in context. When I think of it, I still have the shame of that little four year old girl with the wet underpants.

I was in JK. I was four years old. I think maybe it was circle time and the teacher wouldn’t let me go pee (why do I feel the need to justify this?) and then there was a line up for the bathroom and I guess I just couldn’t hold it and some pee escaped. I didn’t tell anyone. The teacher asked why the floor was wet and I denied it. (my classic move =deny and lie.)

That day my sister picked me up from my class and took me to meet the carpool who drove us home. I remember walking in the front door and feeling like it was odd that my mom was waiting by the door with her arms out and a smile. But, being four years old, I fell for it and gave her a big hug. She felt my bum and asked me why my pants were wet. #fail.

I don’t remember what happened next. It’s not like I got in big trouble or anything.

But that moment where the hug became not a hug stuck with me.

Lesson learned: A hug is a way to invade someone’s personal space and get something from them. There is always motivation behind a hug.



papa, can you hear me?

Fun fact: The popular tv show The Walking Dead is actually based on my father’s life. That’s not really true. The show is about typical zombies. My father was actually an inverted zombie: dead on the inside, alive on the outside.

I will now tell you all the warm fatherly feelings that I can remember:

When I was 6, I remember my dad teaching me how to ride a two wheeled bike. It was fun. He ran behind me and then promised to hold on and let go.

When I was 8 or 9 years old we went downhill skiing with a few other families. I remember being scared of the chairlift (of course, because it’s freaky). One of my parent’s friends, Ira, encouraged me gently to try it with him. Ira told me how to get on and off the lift and kept his arm around me the whole time so I’d feel safe. I felt really safe riding with him. Wait- he wasn’t my dad.

Around the same age, I used to spend a ton of time with my neighbor friend, Laura. Her parents weren’t particularly nice to me or to her so I felt really comfortable there. In the winter, sometimes  her dad would take us tobogganing to a special hill that we had to drive to. I felt pretty special that I got to go with. Wait- he wasn’t my dad either.

For my 15th birthday, I woke up in the morning and my dad had already gone to work but he’d left a birthday card that he made himself on the computer for me. He also bought me a special birthday gift just from him. (It was a box of yellow highlighters and a pack of colorful bic pens.) This was the most meaningful and personal gift he had ever given me.

When I got my Grade 10 midterm report card, my dad gave me a sideways hug and air kissed my head and said “you know we are very proud of you.”. He also gave me a hug the night before my wedding and told me that he’d miss me.

I know that lots of people grow up without a father in their homes or their lives, or with a father who was abusive or incapable of keeping them physically safe. I’m fortunate that I didn’t have those problems.

My problem was that I had a father who I saw in my home every single day. But he always acted like he believed that he was invisible. Or maybe he thought I was invisible. Either way, he was pretty convincing.

Papa, can you hear me?
Papa, can you see me?



shining, gleaming, streaming, flaxen, waxen

I want to write about a (not so) funny story that has become part of my family’s narrative.

When my sister Lilac was about 9 years old, the family was getting ready for a party and she asked mom to trim her bangs. Her hair was in her eyes and it was bothering her.

Mom was irritated by this request (she had to focus on perfecting her own hair) so dad stepped in to help.  He grabbed my 9 year old sister’s hair and cut her bangs efficiently with a carpenter’s knife that was handy.

Mom was not impressed with this solution. She started screaming at both of them. She was yelling at my sister for ‘letting’ him cut her hair and yelling at my dad for making the girl look so ridiculous. Dad grabbed a hairband and shoved it on her head to hold back the -now too short and very crooked- bangs.

My mother then continued to scream and rant to my sister about how ridiculous and stupid she looked. Nice.

The story is often told to illustrate the family myth of my sister as the trouble maker. As if none of the adults played a role in this farce. She was just a kid asking her parents for something.

This is actually not a funny story at all. It’s a story of child abuse.

The fact that my parents continue to retell this story proudly shows their complete ignorance of the injustice that was caused that day, and every other day.

However, I am grateful that they did tell stories like this. Through these stories, I learned many important lessons that would help me survive my childhood:

survival lesson #1: do not ask for things. ever.

survival lesson #2: including father in anything will incur mother’s wrath. (even though they are still married and share a bed.)

survival lesson #3: when getting ready for a family dinner party, stay the fuck away from mom and dad’s room.


onions make me cry

We got a new stove. I cooked on it for the first time last night. I never cooked anything other than pasta or oatmeal on the old stove. We’ve lived here 6 months.

Before that we lived in a condo for 2 years. I can’t recall cooking food on that stove more than maybe 5 times.  I think the responsibility for our strained relationship is probably more my fault than the stove’s.

I clearly have some issues with food. I’ll get into the eating issues another day. But I want to talk about the food prep barrier that I have. It’s big. Berlin wall style big.

Three years ago when I had my first post-baby hypomanic episode (the big “something’s really wrong and we can’t ignore it anymore” moment), I remember deciding that someone else needed to feed the kids. I just couldn’t feed them. Ever.

And someone else did. I owe so much to my husband and my mother-in-law and their whole family. She had to leave the country that summer for 10 days and she prepared homemade frozen dinners for the kids to have each night. And my father-in-law is awesome and prepared a ‘picnic’ of fruits and veggies when he picked up my kids every day before he fed them dinner.

I don’t know why I couldn’t do it. But I just couldn’t feed my children. I couldn’t make the food and I also couldn’t serve it to them. It gave me too much anxiety and since there were others who could fill that task, I had to free myself of it.

Making them breakfast sometimes last year when I planned ahead was an accomplishment. For snacks, I could cut raw veggies or fruit.

When I started juicing, it forced me to start getting comfortable working in the kitchen, cutting vegetables and preparing something edible. Because it was the same thing every day and I was primarily making it for myself (with my husband getting some as a bonus), it seemed less anxiety provoking.

So last night, when I didn’t like the idea of drinking raw juice from the cauliflower that was about to go bad in my fridge, I decided to try out my new stove and make cauliflower carrot soup. I knew carrots. I peel carrots each night for my carrot juice. Soup is just boiled veggies. I’ll just put them in a pot instead of a juicer. It felt safe.

Things started out okay. I chopped up onions, celery, garlic, carrots, cauliflower, pepper. I can chop veggies in my kitchen – just like juicing. Then it came time to start cooking the soup. I had to sautee the onions and celery. That’s when the onions made me cry.

How could heating up some onions and celery in a pot feel so horrible? It just brought up so many strong memories of standing stirring a pot of onions while my mom cooked. Of her cutting the vegetables because I did it in the wrong direction, or too big, or too slowly, or too small. Of my arm getting tired stirring food that I knew didn’t require an entire person to do. Of having to make conversation with her while I stirred (and making sure the topics didn’t slide into anything that would make her mad at me).

These feelings seem so unreal. They are so hard to put words to. Because from the outside, the situation may have looked perfectly normal. A kid or teen helping prepare dinner in the kitchen with mom. Seems okay. No kids like helping make dinner. Normal. Right? Maybe. I think there was more to it.

So, last night as I added the rest of the vegetables to the soup, it started to smell kinda good. Like soup cooking but then it made me feel even worse. And I realized that I had used the same recipe that my mom used to use. I was making her soup. Fuck.

The reason for the tears was not entirely what I expected. It wasn’t just the nostalgia or regret – it was fear and it was betrayal.  I had a strong feeling that I was betraying my mother in the worst possible way. Which is weird. I’ve mostly come to terms with cutting her out of my life and denying her access to her grandchildren.

But to go ahead and just make her soup? What kind of a monster am I? She’s going to call me on it. (as if, she will telepathically know that I made soup in the house she doesn’t know that I live in.) The feeling and the fear just hurt so so much.

If I allow myself to think about it, which I try not to, I guess I could figure out why I hate cooking. The kitchen was a room where I was guilted into “helping” her by “keeping her company” and allowing her to order me around to do menial tasks. Lest she be alone while she cooked- with no one to witness her culinary glory.

I would peel potatoes under freezing running water until my hands hurt, tear lettuce under freezing water for salad I never ate, I would stir a pot for hours on end, put silver foil on a baking sheet, set the table hours in advance, hold the hand mixer forever to beat eggs for a cake.  I could always do a piece of a task to “help” her but the most important help she taught me, was ‘keeping her company’.

I don’t think she ever let me just cut up a bunch of veggies. I always did it wrong. So it wasn’t something I did. Maybe that’s why cutting veggies is the one thing that I like doing in the kitchen. Because it’s new to me. It’s part of new me, not my old shitty life. And I can cut them however the fuck I feel like it. There’s no wrong way to chop a carrot!

Apparently the soup turned out well. I couldn’t eat it. I can’t serve it to my kids either.

on birthdays and presents

I had about 11 birthdays from the time I was born until I was 11 years old.

For my 7th birthday, when I was just starting grade 2, we had a new live-in nanny who started in early September. She was really nice. Her name was Lily and she was from Mexico (I think). Lily used to sit with me and colour with me, talk to me, teach me stuff. I remember she taught me how to draw a tree with little lines for leaves. She made me feel really great. For my birthday (late September), Lily made me a really cool birthday party at home. She decorated the house with some streamers and balloons and she made a pinata out of a balloon and paper mache and we got to hit it. A whole bunch of friends from school came over and my mom baked a cake that looked like a clown. It was a really fun birthday. Lily moved out a week or two later.

For someone who was in my life for 6 weeks when I was 7, I have a lot of really positive memories of Lily. It makes sense that someone nice wouldn’t last long in our madhouse. But sometimes I wonder if she had stayed, if things would have turned out differently for me. But it’s a moo point. (yes, i said moo) My mother would never have allowed me to forge a connection with another adult who was not squarely under her thumb.

Because so many kids from school came to that birthday, I got a lot of presents that year. For my 7th birthday, I remember I got two of the same gift. It was a purple box with little plastic pretend high heels, lipstick, purse, sunglasses, perfume bottle. Super silly and wasteful. But I was secretly so excited to have one. I think the gift was deemed too silly to keep but because I got two, I was allowed to keep one of them. The other box, was put in my bedroom closet to be re-gifted to a friend.

Now here’s the problem, 7 year old me had very good restraint. I knew better than to open a toy that my mother put in my bedroom and told me was not for me. I could have looked at that toy every day until I died. But then my neighbor friend Laura came over and wanted to play dress up together. She pulled out the box and started to open it. I stopped her right away. I told her I wasn’t allowed. It wasn’t mine. She reasoned that it was my present anyway and if my mom didn’t want me to open it, she wouldn’t have put it in my room. She told me she was going to go home if I wasn’t going to share with her. She also didn’t seem to think it was a big deal if didn’t obey my mother. She was wrong.

For me, getting in trouble meant a “lecture”.  This meant sitting face to face with my mother (without touching) for as long as she deemed necessary while she questioned you on all aspects of the crime, not really giving you a chance to answer, and then you just had to listen to her go on and on about how wrong you are and how it affected her negatively. I remember having to listen to how I disappointed my mother with my weak character. She thought she had raised a daughter who knew right from wrong, who wouldn’t be led astray by a friend or a shiny toy. She was crushed that my integrity was not strong enough to stand up to the peer pressure that I gave in to. If I couldn’t hold my own around my friends, maybe I shouldn’t be around them. The “lecture” ended when she got bored of talking or a tv show that she wanted to watch was on. Then I was allowed to go to my room and cry alone for as long as I wanted. It was a beautiful learning experience.

That day I cried of shame that I chose appeasing my friend over obeying my mother. What kind of person was I anyway? Maybe I shouldn’t have even been born – 7 years ago.

Guilt says, “I’m sorry. I made a mistake.” Shame says, “I’m sorry. I am a mistake.”*(Brene Brown)

My mother was a fuckin bitch.

p.s. For my 8th birthday, my mom took me to see my first broadway-style play – a special matinee of Les Mis, which she had already seen and thought I would like. Set in 19th century France, Les Miserables is an inspiring play about abject poverty, prostitution, imprisonment, corruption, war, and death. I found the play surprisingly relatable.


cast of characters

Might as well give you a simple reference for the cast of crazy characters that may come up on this journey back in time.

Since my family of origin will be figuring prominently here’s a simple tree:

Mom – Dad (married 1970)

S.J. (eldest sister b.1972)

Zeed (brother b.1974)

Lilac (sister b.1977)

Lyla (me b.1982)

It’s a pretty nuclear bunch.  I mean, seriously, stand too close to the group and you’ll suffer radiation poisoning.

Other people who might feature could include:

Bubie (maternal grandmother)

Zadie (maternal grandfather)

Auntie R. (mom’s little sister b. 1964)

So… there you have it. I’m sure I’ll come up with some good descriptions later to make you feel like you know them (without the radiation exposure).



don’t cry, you might worry people

When I was in grade 7, a classmate’s father committed suicide in his car in his garage.

A friend called to tell me and I remember my first thought was “o shit, they are going to catch me. They are going to know that I thought it and I will get in trouble now.” I was very careful to make sure to never mention that boy and hope that my mom never found out.

It was as if his father’s suicide was some how going to get ME in trouble. I had no empathy, no confusion, no sadness, no fear that my parents would ever do the same- only fear that my own secret suicidal thoughts would get me into trouble.

The following year, I spent a lot of time crying in the bathroom stall at school. I think that every 12 year old girl in my grade probably spent some on the bathroom floor in a puddle of hormones. But I was by far the most frequent bathroom crier.

One day (I remember, it was the first day back from Passover break in March or April), I just couldn’t stop crying. The principle even came in to try to soothe me. That night my mother got a call from the school. Apparently I made the mistake (in my fit of crying) of telling the principle that I just wanted to be done with life because it felt too hard.

The conversation with my mother that night went like this:

Mom: The school called and said that you said some things that scared them today.

me (12 years old): O. Um. Ya. I was just overwhelmed with my school work.

Mom: She said you said you wanted your life to be over. You didn’t really mean that did you? You shouldn’t say things like that, it scares people who don’t know that you’re just very dramatic.

me: Oh. I just meant that I wanted school to be over because it was so hard.

Mom: I thought so. I told her that. I won’t get another call like that. Right? You know, there’s a time and place for everything. Imagine if you started crying at grandma’s house. She would get so worried. It wouldn’t be right. So don’t scare people.

me: ok.

So. that was the end of that conversation. Never to be spoken of again. I went to school the next day with a big smile and jumped right into a fun hypo-manic episode that no one noticed.


… I feel like I have to add something else. Because it’s related. Jumping forward to adulthood. When I was 4 months pregnant with my second child, and after years of therapy, I was doing an intake for a prenatal depression program at the hospital. Things were bad. I was answering the nurse’s questions honestly and failing the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Screening tool with flying colors. Until the last question: “The thought of harming myself has occurred to me.” I immediately answered “never”.

I think that my quick response was so out of line with the other answers that a red flag automatically went up and she escalated my first appointment to the following day. This was almost 20 years after that conversation with my mom.

It never really happened… and it was a long time ago anyway.

I am about to dive into some murky memories.

These aren’t quite blog posts but they need to be written somewhere. As I start to let them in, I can see them playing out in my head like scenes from a movie. It’s a very weird movie, this movie of my life. So, I will write them here – in whatever incomplete state they come to me. I might use analogies or speak in third person. I might go back and edit or add to certain stories after they have been published (something I don’t do with my blog posts). I don’t know where this will go. But this is part of telling my story.

It’s the story of growing up with a father who had given up on life and a mother who was self-described, “Benevolent Dictator”; and who has never seen any mental health professional but has been diagnosed by her family as suffering from Borderline Personality Disorder. She is a narcissist with a masters degree in manipulation.

I hope that telling this story- bringing it out of the dark and facing my own shame at having been a part of this, will allow me to close the book on the past and move forward with the rest of my life.


[portfolio display_types=true display_tags=false columns=4 orderby=date order=desc]


and some more….