As usual, the sound of my bedroom door banging open was what woke me. It must have been 3am. My mom stormed in, screaming, “Get your lazy ass up, Lilith!” The next thing I knew her cold hands that reeked of cigarettes were ripping me out of bed.
It was happening again.
Her nails sank into my forearm as she pulled me from my room. Stumbling down the hall, dragging me behind her, we made our way to the bathroom. She pushed me inside and flicked on the lights. I looked at the mass of peeled white acrylic spray paint accumulating in the bottom of the tub. My eyes darted to the pile of dead bugs on the floor, then to the toilet lid, shattered and rusting. Usually we had this hand mirror decorated with vines and angels hanging next the door. It was gone, which meant it was probably on the coffee table in the living room next to a rolled-up dollar bill.
“Well?” she asked. “What are you waiting for? Get on there!”
I stared at my mother’s shrine, a small metal box with a dial on top. Its numbers glared at me, bold and intense. The red needle in the middle mocked me as it sat at zero, daring me to step on.
“Mom,” I said. “Please. I just wanna go back to sleep.”
“We can stand here all night!” she said, crossing her arms.
I stepped on the scale, trying to ignore whatever shit she was saying about Scarlett Johansson or the Keto diet or whatever she recently read in Cosmo.
“160?” she laughed. “Jesus Christ, Lilith, you fat fucking cow! Even I could fit in your clothes now. Get out of my sight, you disgusting pig.”
So I made my way back to my bed, alone, silent. Again.
You see, she wasn’t always this way. It was the result of a husband that fled for a babysitter the previous year, a cocktail of various drugs, too much wine and cheap whiskey, and a financial debt she wasn’t going to get out of any time soon. I couldn’t tell if it was her, my father, or the failed system we were living in, which is why I needed a method to handle such unpredictable madness: complete and utter dissociation.
I spent years trying to pinpoint the exact issue as if I could help fix it, but nothing is ever as easy as it seems. I began to micro-analyze everything she did. The truth is, there was nothing to be done. If she wanted to be mad, she’d be mad. So I found myself in the situation of all situations, sink or swim, and the only way to keep swimming was to dissociate. Due to this, I hardly remember specific instances, the severity of what was said, and my
emotions during such episodes. We lived in a small two-bedroom apartment. The kitchen, which had always reeked of old, rancid curry was half the size of my bedroom. The entire place only had two small windows, one in each bedroom that were too dirty to let much light in.
I sat on my bed, rubbed my eyes and picked up my phone, 3:23am glowed on the screen. I opened Instagram and scrolled for a few minutes until I heard the door latch click. My body tensed as my eyes met with my mother’s. She approached me with a sandwich and a glass of juice.
“Hey Lily!” she chimed, sitting on my bed and handing me the food. She’s fucking crazy, I thought, but nonetheless, she dove into pointless conversation. As always, I played into it, too tired to address the previous issue. Before I knew it, I had fallen asleep and was awoken to the toxic chime of my alarm clock.
It was 7am and I was pretty damn late for school. I trudged to the kitchen and began making coffee. Suddenly my body jolted to the sound of my mother’s door slamming. The apartment had unfortunate, thin walls. I could hear screaming. Most likely a phone call from my father, I thought to myself. I was pouring my coffee when she came out of her room ranting about what a scumbag my father was and how his girlfriend was definitely doing meth.
She kept me home from school that day to make me clean. Scrubbing the walls with soap and water so our landlord wouldn’t know that she smoked inside the apartment. Fixing the furniture and décor broken the night before. A verbal onslaught, waiting for me no matter how much I complied with her requests. This behavior became extremely normal for me over time, all of it beginning my freshman year of high school. My mother had a host of issues; mental, physical, and emotional. Over time I noticed she had the mentality of a 15-year-old girl, conceited and dramatic. These episodes of sudden anger continued until the start of my senior year when I moved out. This instance was a small example of one of the hundreds of ‘conversations’ we had.
Living through these conditions for so long was without a doubt the most valuable experience I’ve ever had. I would never wish such a life on any living soul, but I also wouldn’t give it up for anything. This probably sounds absolutely crazy to be saying, so let me explain. Such experiences have taught me growth, strength, maturity, empathy, and so much more. It allows me to look at those around me without making any preemptive judgements. This situation helped me develop more patience and understanding when someone is rude for no reason. I’m hyper-aware of individuals’ non-verbal communication, making communication easier to understand. I know during a conversation if someone is trying to leave. By looking at someone’s posture I can tell their current emotion, and I can detect the slightest shift in tone of voice which is incredibly useful in directing conversations. I matured quicker than the average kid, allowing the freedom I now have to taste so much sweeter. These unfortunate circumstances helped me to see life in a very unique way, something I truly wouldn’t give up for anything.