letter home

Dear Mom,

I think the biggest struggle between us has always been honesty. When I was little I hid everything from you, because I thought that’s what good daughters were supposed to do. Everything that was unpalatable, I just put away. I figured neither of us wanted to deal with it.

When I got older, I stopped lying. I wouldn’t say I started telling the truth, but I started telling my version of the truth, the one that served me best. I started telling stretched, distorted versions of what was really happening, so that I could keep doing what I wanted, and you could stop worrying.

I know you’ve never stopped worrying. I haven’t either. The bipolar diagnosis hit like a truck. It made everything make sense, and none of it add up, all at the same time. Hypomania becomes a part of our vocabulary more than any other word. Every moment of happiness, every good mood, comes with the lingering pathologization. Everything is my disorder now, just like it’s always been, and I don’t get a life to myself, and neither do you.

I still have my personality, mostly. When I was little, you told me I was sassy and sharp. The misogyny has dulled my attitude and the weed my wit. I miss who I was when I was five, and I know you miss that version of me, too. I wish for both of us that we could get her back. I still do things on my own terms, it’s just a little watered down — my terms transformed into ‘addiction’ and ‘substance abuse disorder.’ You don’t know that, and I feel that you don’t need to.

I wanted to say I still enjoy our conversations where we pretend everything is okay. Even when we’re faking it, barely scratching the surface of what’s really going on, I still love you. I still love us. I love you, me, Sissy. Even when you ask me why Sissy and I don’t speak to Dad anymore, knowing the happiest you’ve ever been is when you’ve been farthest removed from him. You just want what’s best for your daughters.

The love between the three of us is palpable, you can see it in the air. We will fight for each other. Hospitals on New Years’, hospitals on Christmas, you’ve always been there. This isn’t a love letter, or a testament to your motherhood — though it is testament-worthy. This is a letter saying I’m sorry I couldn’t be the daughter you were promised.

I was supposed to be better than I turned out to be. There’s still time to prove myself, but I feel like I owe you a better story to tell your friends. After all you’ve done for me, I feel like I can’t pull out anything to show for. President of this club doesn’t mean anything when I can’t be a good person. I called you this morning and we had a conversation that meant everything and nothing at the same time. Simple words add up to something more meaningful. “I can’t believe he would do that to his own daughter.” You deserve better.

Home is where your mom is. I keep running from you, and you keep waiting for me to come back.

Love,

Bella

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belm0ney

belm0ney

Isabella (she/her) writes literary nonfiction and creative memoir. She currently resides in Greensboro, NC, and intends to pursue an MFA in creative writing.