Sail away – A Personal Story About Childhood
I talk often about growing up knowing that Mental Illnesses were very real and very unpredictable. I share this story in hopes that maybe someone else out there needs to hear that they aren't the only one who grew up with a turbulent childhood affected by a family member with a severe mental illness that went untreated.
Writing became my way of coping with trauma and my own safe world to hide away in. Throughout my life, I've found that writing has helped me to heal and help others cope with the aftermath of dramatic and sometimes terrible parents.
The idea of dancing with fireflies was always meant to connect with each other through stories, food, and common interests. And it's those special times that we allow ourselves to show our cracks and flaws that we shine the brightest in the darkness…. fireflies that dance together.
I think about my childhood sometimes, trying to make peace of it and understanding. It wasn't easy growing up with a parent with a mental illness. She just wasn't who I needed her to be, and looking at it now; I am thankful that my great-grandparents had the insight to see that when I was born and tried to step in to help. For the most part, I was raised by my Great-Grandmother. She did her best, and I love her endlessly for that.
However, there were times when I was left with my birth mother, who had a “borderline personality disorder” – mentally ill. Back then, everyone thought it was best to keep children with their parents, even if it was often dangerous.
This was one of those times that I remember. Even though I didn't see the danger in leaving a 3-year-old alone in a pool on a rooftop at the time, this memory was carved into my childhood's happier moments.
It was so warm out there. My skin tingled as my toes slipped into the cold water. Overjoyed at the sensation, I startled myself with the bursts of high-pitched giggles erupting from my small chest. The sun laughed with me as I splashed the cool water over my skin, the contrasts making me feel so full of life.
Even now, as I look around in my memory, I feel all alone up there on the rooftop. The freedom to be up so high and not be guided from movement to movement by someone else who often thought they knew better. I don’t resent being alone, not then. On the contrary, I feel its sovereignty, and it makes me laugh even more. My delight causes me to dance. The water sways with my movements over the top of the tiny blue pool.
I grow quiet now, easing into the depths of the water and allowing it to both calm me and remind me of its ability to steal away my life if I were to slip under its cool blanket. I sink into my own reality, a world of my creating where tiny captains sail toy boats through mermaid waters to return to their waiting daughters who stand faithfully at the shore until they come to sweep them up in their strong arms and keep them safe from the storm.
Somewhere above, the gulls laugh, and I am drawn up to the sky. My wings would take me up high into the clouds where I could stay and watch those down below from my lofty safe place. Up high now, with the Angels that must certainly sleep in the folds of the cotton-like airships. I could sail away with the gulls as my guides. So far away from the rooftop pool and confusion of human life, I could sail until I found that special place where I belonged.
My skin grew red and angry with the sun watching over me as it did. Though I resisted the demand to leave this sanctuary, there would be other days to play. However, this was the one I would remember always.