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If you know me well, you know that I take things to heart, words mean a lot to me &, at times, I have been known to internalize them & allow them to become my truth, my hard-wired truth. I’ve allowed this for years. If someone I deeply care for says it, it must be true. It took me 38 years to realize that is an absolute lie, a fabrication of truth.

I was supposed to go see my mom & step dad, last March. We booked our tickets, purchased a hotel for the week, & had a rental car in place. My anxiety took over as we inched closer & closer to the day of departure. My mom is ill, mentally ill, & it takes a lot for me to be around her. I love my mother. My stepfather can be mean, a bully, & doesn’t think much of me. They got married when I was 12 & he has never said I love you or been proud of me. He’s a loud man & can be controlling. He pays ya off & calls that caring about you. If you do what he wants, you are golden, but if you challenge him, or go against his wishes, you’re doomed.
When my mom was diagnosed as schizophrenic, when I was 15, he told me I made my mom that way & I had caused her too much stress. I know now that is an outright freaking lie, a fabrication of truth. No one can cause mental illness, it’s genetic. However, to a 15-year-old impressionable teen, that was hard to hear & swallow. I saw a lot of crazy shit that scares me to my core to think about. I can’t & won’t go there. Therapy has been my saving grace.

My mom could no longer care for me & was a threat to herself. She was committed. No one was there to save me from the madness that had turned my sweet mother into an unrecognizable being that I was afraid of. Mom went to a mental institution & I went to live with my beloved father & wonderful step mom. Thank God for them; they saved me.
Arkansas holds a lot of really terrifying memories for me, memories that give me anxiety & make me cry if I think too much about them. I chatted with my psychiatrist about the upcoming trip & as I spoke, I began to shake & cry. Trauma is real & when you talk about what you have been through, you are taken back to that childhood trauma. I was that 15-year-old girl all over again- was reliving the nightmare on the phone 100’s of miles away. I was having an anxiety attack over the phone in just chatting about the upcoming trip. As I spoke, she told me that I had to cancel the trip. It was in my best interest not to go at all & to absolutely not expose myself, or my children, to that anxiety causing trauma. I felt relieved. I had permission not to go.

I remember making the call home to tell my parents. My hands were shaking, but I had to make the call. Brian & I had agreed we weren’t going to go, as it was not in my best interest. I felt guilty, but my mental health trumps making people happy & sparing people’s feelings. I have to be stable & in control & my stress level has to be as low as possible, or else.

My stepfather became angry when I told him it was too stressful for me & he started in on the guilt trip bullshit. He began saying unkind things. When I mentioned him blaming me for my mom’s mental illness (the 1st time I had ever confronted him), he told me I was full of shit & denied it ever happening, he told me I didn’t even know my name @ 15, & the only thing I was good at was being a good mom. & then he made me tell my mom & the rhetoric began again. I hung up. I didn’t deserve that, not a word of it.

I sat on it for a while. I thought about it & I disagree. Again, lies. Just because it is said, does not make it true. If my stepfather really knew me, had truly taken the time to get to know me, & what I was truly interested in those early pivotal years, he would have discovered my heart & how much helping others means to me, you would have heard me sing in a pretty way, noticed my unique style, my true & deep desire for making art, & my love affair with abstract creation.

I’m so much more than you have ever given me credit for. I am a strong woman who helps as many people as possible to be true to their authentic selves & to own their gifts & their shortcomings- to learn that their imperfections make them beautiful & one of a kind. I am a high school, college, & graduate school graduate. I am a teacher. I am a beautiful souled woman that lives with integrity & love & I have an empathetic nature. I am an empath, an artist, & a writer. I am all this & so much more.

When someone tells you who you are, don’t you dare take it in as your truth. Don’t believe the hype & the lies & the small-mindedness of people who have not taken the precious time to get to know what makes you great. You know who you are & you are worthy & beautiful & one of a kind & a gem.

Hear me loud & clear: You get to choose who you spend your time with & you get to choose to pick up the phone or not. You get to choose who you spend your holidays with & you get to choose for how long you do so. You have control over your life.

I’m done doing things that no longer serve my well-being, things that do not fill my spirit with joy & love. Done doing things that don’t feel good & done participating in things that I am supposed to because it’s the right thing to do or because I don’t want to upset someone or step on their toes. Self-care is number one. It took me 38 years to arrive to this realization.

Do what you want to & do what you want to with people who love you for you & will lift you up & make you feel all warm & fuzzy inside. Set boundaries that make sense for you & your family.

May you always know who you are & keep your sacred spirit & soul protected. Please know that not a single person can take away your greatness, your talents, your gifts, & your beautiful spirit, without your permission. Remember, you can always hang up the phone, let voicemail pick up the call, cancel your flight, or stay home. You can love from a far, via e-mail, via skype, or voicemail. As for my mom, she will have to make the trek here. That is what works for me & my family. You choose what works for you & yours!

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