The Mean Reds

My father left my mother in a psychiatric facility the day before Thanksgiving. He told her that he would take custody of us and that he didn’t care where she went, but she couldn’t come home. She has just undergone multiple treatments of ECT. I was thirteen.

At fourteen I moved in with my mother after he lost the custody battle. It saved my life.  The five months living with my father had contained nothing but verbal abuse and neglect. So, at the end of the summer, when my mom asked if I’d like to live with her and my grandparents, I made the first of many tough decisions I’ve had to make in my life. I left all of my friends and a school I loved to live with a parent that would love me.

I exchanged a happy high school career for a happy family existence and I have never regretted a moment of it.

But there’s things I didn’t foresee.

I didn’t foresee being bipolar. I didn’t foresee taking over my father’s role as caregiver to my mother when she was bipolar. I didn’t foresee coming out to my father as gay and losing him for good. I didn’t foresee the constant social upheaval I would experience amongst my peers so horrific that it would leave me afraid and untrusting of the world outside my front door. Those things, I quite frankly didn’t count on.

Tonight, I am suffering from what Audrey Hepburn (or Truman Capote if you want to be literal) referred to as “The Mean Reds”. I am sad and anxious and heavy with the life I find myself waking up to. I am small. I am closed off and alone in ways I didn’t know one could be alone. I feel as if the whole world is going to swallow me up.

In the song “She Used To Be Mine” written by Sara Bareilles for the musical Waitress, are the words, “You’re not what I asked for. If I’m honest I know I would give it all back for a chance to start over and rewrite an ending or two.” Sometimes I think of all the choices I’ve made to land me in this bed typing these words; every decision that led me to a life so small and yet so exhausting. What could I have done differently? What would I give to fix it?

My father would have killed me. His disbelief of mental illness is almost as potent as his hatred of homosexuality. I can say with absolute certainty that I would no longer be here if it weren’t for my mom. Choosing her is never going to be a decision I regret. She is my best friend. She is my person, the one that never fails to understand. I suppose what I didn’t bargain for was that I would end up with just the people contained under this roof.   That I would be trapped within these four walls. I didn’t plan on this feeling of being trapped, of suffocating under a blanket of my own decisions. To quote Sara again, “It’s not easy to know that I’m not anything like I used to be. Although it’s true I was never attention’s sweet center, I still remember that [boy]… [He] is gone but [he] used to be mine…”

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