Written by Marie Demasi.
I have a very vivid memory of my childhood. I remember family trips, holidays, birthday parties, really fun times with my cousins and friends. I also remember the tougher moments: Friday evenings when I struggled to leave my guardians (my aunt and uncle who later adopted me but who I had always called Mom and Pop) and Sunday nights when I struggled to leave my biological dad and my brother Steven to go back home. I was always battling with FOMO (fear of missing out) before it was even a thing. When I was home I wanted to be at my dad’s, and when I was at my dad’s I wanted to be home.
Of all the happy moments from my childhood, nothing was more fun than the Saturday morning adventures Steven, my built-in protector and best friend, and I had… the moments in which we got along so well, when no one was watching. Steven is also my most painful childhood memory. Losing him has scarred me for life, a pain that has never gotten better with time.
My brother didn’t live with us full time. He came over right after school and was picked up by my dad at night after work. My living situation was similar to that of a child whose parents are divorced—I lived all week at home and then saw my dad on weekends and one night a week for dinner. I would also see my dad when he came to pick up Steven. I never thought this was strange. It never really bothered me until my brother was 12 and I was 9. Steven changed, and I didn’t understand why. My brother was struggling with depression and no one knew how to handle it. As I shared in a previous blog post, he committed suicide at age 13. He could not live with the pain of losing our mother when he was only three, five days after I was born.
After the loss of Steven, and before I could really comprehend any of it—his death, my own anxiety and depression, the underlying trauma of losing my mother—I was thrown into every type of therapy and group session the school system could provide so that my family wouldn’t lose me, too. Teachers, staff, friends, family, and neighbors were all hovering around me, asking me if I was okay. I was never left alone. Despite all the support, high school was tough. I spent most of my time pretending I wasn’t struggling. I had mastered the art of smiling and pretending that everything was okay and that no one would know my pain. My smile fooled everyone.
My real struggle happened in 2002. I lived alone in a basement apartment, and all the pain I had been suppressing for years exploded. I was scared to die, but I could barely function and was more afraid to live. I knew I needed help but was afraid to ask. I didn’t want to hurt anyone or make them relive Steven’s pain all over again. It was all a confusing emotional roller coaster.
When I was growing up, my dad kept his home very dark. His room was often pitch black, with shades down and no lamps, and our living room only had one small lamp. My Mom (my aunt who adopted me) would always lift the shades to let in the light as soon as she got to my dad’s, and she instilled the love of natural light into me by telling me that a little sunshine can make me feel much better. I remember the day the light came back into my time of darkness. I moved back home, I got a puppy, and I was determined to finish college and move to New York to pursue a career. In the darkness, I couldn’t see the future or believe in myself; I doubted everything and felt unworthy. It was a terrible place to be and an awful spot to be stuck in. Eventually, I ran like mad to the light because my authentic self knew I deserved it.
Since then, I have been blessed with three children, who are like rays of sunshine that lift me up and keep me going even on the gloomiest of days. I am blessed with the opportunity to be their mother; I don’t take that for granted for one second. I now know all the things my mom missed out on, and I am determined to let the light in, to get out and do as much as I can each day. It’s my job as a mother to steer my children to the light and for them to believe and know that THEY ARE WORTH IT. Just like I am worth it.