A little while ago I read a lovely blog post written by a fellow blogger named Roger. He focused on his relationship with his dad and how sometimes we focus so much on the negative and what we never had or even don’t have. This got me thinking about my relationship with my mother and my relationship with myself.
My relationship with my mother went through a turbulent phase a few years ago. Not out of choice or because we had a falling out, but because I’ve struggled to understand her relationship with alcohol. My mum started drinking after my father died and it is only now that I am struggling with my very own mental health and after reading Roger’s post I have come to realise that she was also struggling with her own mental health and the trauma of loosing her husband of 27 years so suddenly. When grieving it’s so easy to get wrapped up in your own emotions, you forget you’re not the only one who has suffered a loss. I was able to bounce back a little quicker than my mum as I had my acting job to focus on. I was able to focus all my energy on my career, where she had nothing. She had lost her husband and her only child was away travelling with work.
This has given me a new sense of respect and empathy for her. I may not have had much time to mourn my father’s death because I chose to focus on work, but she had all that time to mourn. This, in her case wasn’t the best. She unexpectedly found herself an empty nester, a widow and alone. My life with my mother was mostly amazing. Yes, like every relationship we had our ups and downs, but for the most part it was amazing. We used to dress the same, go shopping and do all the girly things. She taught me to bake and tried teaching me to cook. I remember trying to replicate a sweet and sour chicken dish she used to make, and I heard my dad say “please don’t let her cook again” in the most loving way possible. I laughed so hard my cheeks hurt. I knew then that cooking was not my forte.
Growing up as a child we’ve had some amazing times and when I think of my childhood I always smile, because my parents gave me the best they ever could. They provided me with a life they never had. I have always acknowledged this and I always will. When my father died she struggled and once I became a mother I just couldn’t understand why she kept partying thirteen years since dads passing. I have and still support her financially and I will continue to do so till the day she dies, because she is my mother and I love her. Her life choices are hers and although I may not agree with it all, I will support her. She is now making more positive choices, she’s happy again and her happiness is all I ever wanted. I have realised that in spite of her choices, she still loves me and maybe turning to alcohol was her way of coping. It may not have been the ‘right’ way of dealing with things, but it is clear that she too has learnt valuable lessons through her ordeal and her struggles. Our relationship is finally back on track and I couldn’t be happier.
I have recently taken a hard look at myself and how critical I have been of myself over the years. Before my diagnosis I have always been very critical of myself anyway, but anxiety and depression has placed this under a microscope and forced me to re-evaluate my relationship with myself. I have always wanted more for myself, and I guess that part of me won’t ever change, but the difference is now I am able to recognise when I am being unrealistic. My expectations of myself have and always will be high, however this time it is different. Anxiety and depression may have robbed me of confidence and self belief, but it forced me to take a look at myself and make the changes I need to make in order to be a confident, self assured and happy being. In a way it has been my silver lining. It didn’t kill me, it made me stronger. It has made me realise my focus should be on what I have and not on what I don’t have.
Even with set backs, I have more good days than bad. I have more days feeling confident and so sure of myself and my abilities that I sometimes catch myself wondering who this person is. Maybe she’s always been a part of me just waiting to be freed. I don’t know, but I’m so happy. I am happier than I have been in a very long time. No more comparing myself and my abilities to others. No more thinking maybe if I did this or that I’ll be happier. No more thinking if I had this or if I grew up with a silver spoon in my mouth life would be better. Rogers post really got me thinking and delving deep into my soul. I have come to realise that my reaction to others and to certain situations is my choice and only I am responsible for my actions. I know this seems so simple and I have known this my whole life, but it didn’t mean that I changed how I acted or reacted.
I have made many mistakes and I will make many more, but the lessons I am learning are valuable lessons I am now trying to teach my kids. As a child I may not have had a big house, or swimming pool or any of the fancy things I thought was cool back then, but I grew up in a loving home with parents who gave me the best they ever could. Growing up in a township life was always challenging, but when I look back I feel so grateful for my upbringing because it taught me humility, the value of kindness and respect. I was a privileged township kid.
You might wonder why I say this, because townships are dangerous places. The houses aren’t very secure or safe and some may even consider them shacks and there’s probably guns fired every other weekend. I was privileged because I was the one who went to university, the one who got to play competitive tennis, the one who got to travel to parts of South Africa my friends have never been. We may not have had much, but my parents worked hard for me to go on holiday visiting family in other cities whilst they stayed at home working to provide me with a life they could only dream of as children and for that I was privileged. The lessons from my childhood are lessons I am teaching my two sons. We may not be rich, but like my parents my husband and I are working hard so they can have a life we never had. We are fortunate enough to live in a lovely, warm and dry home with a garden for them to enjoy together with their pets.
My mental health disorder has changed my outlook on life. It has changed my goals. I no longer work for material gains, but to provide my kids with a great education and opportunities to create memories that will last a lifetime. By changing the way I view my life, my childhood and my relationship with myself and my mother I finally feel empowered and liberated to live my life the way it was intended to be lived. I have no regrets. The past has taught me valuable lessons, my life goals and outlook has changed for the better and I feel like a whole new person. This caterpillar had finally turned into a butterfly.
I have said this before, life is cruel sometimes, but there are lessons to be learnt from every twist and turn. Life is too short to wallow in self pity. As the saying goes if if at first you don’t succeed dust your self off and try again.
Follow Roger on twitter: @mindandlove1 and read Roger’s post here ⬇️
Father and Son: Recognizing my Good Fortune – Mind and Love