My Story (Taishka the Nomad)

Whether you’ve just found this blog or have been following it out for years, you may wonder how I’m qualified to say the things I say. You may think “Does she even know what adversity is? Who is she to tell me to do x, y and z??” I’ve been tempted to write this in the past but felt it might be taken as a pity party, so I never did.

We’re all different and we all deal with life differently. Since I’m not you I haven’t been through what you’ve been through and I never will. Only YOU experience what you experience, and how. No one can truly compare ‘wounds’ in this fashion.

Here’s part of my story…

My mother was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia when she was about 20. I accidentally came along 7 years later, to a mentally ill mother and an alcoholic father. My sister was born 13 months later. Before I was old enough to remember them, my father took my sister and they both moved to British Columbia, while my mother and I remained in Ontario. I was 6 when my half-brother was born. (I’m going to omit the part of the story where my mother dated a man who likely dated her because she had a daughter.)

My sister and I as toddlers. One of us is hungry ;-)

My sister and I as toddlers. One of us is hungry ;-) (There aren’t many pictures of my youth)

My half-brother Damian

My half-brother Damian

One day when I was 8, while my brother and I were playing on the living room floor, my mother turned to me and said “I can’t do this anymore.” Even though I was only 8 I understood what she meant (I’m not sure how, but I did). As all children do I promised I’d behave better, I tried to talk her out of it. Up to this point I’d spent about half of my life in foster homes. When I was 30 I found out I pronounce my own name wrong. Yes indeed, I’ve lived in many foster homes.

Visiting my mother at a mental institution, with my grandmother. This was taken outside on the institution's grounds.

Visiting my mother at a mental institution, with my grandmother. This was taken outside on the institution’s grounds.

My mother relinquished her parental rights to the Children’s Aid Society and my brother and I went back into foster care as crown wards. A year later I went to live with my maternal grandparents (my father’s family have never been involved in my life) and my brother was adopted by an aunt and uncle, who had 4 children of their own. They decided that he’d fit in better if I treated him like a cousin instead of a brother, and I was instructed to behave accordingly. I tried to talk my aunt out of this but I failed. I was 9. This has irreparably harmed the close bond my brother and I had. Due to the realities of living with a schizophrenic, single mother I had taken on motherly duties (I’m told this, I have no memory) and my brother showed that he saw me as his protector. The adoption took away his mother-figure and protector. When I was 11 I stopped joining my grandparents on visits to see my brother and started letting him go. In my mind I just can’t connect my baby brother with the man he is now. To me they’re 2 different people.

Camping with my grandparents (we'd just returned from Church) when I was 12. My youth was plagued by bad haircuts haha.

Camping with my grandparents  (this was after Church on Sunday) when I was 12. My youth was plagued by bad haircuts haha.

When I graduated from high school at 20 that was my 13th school, at best guess. I “aged out” of the foster care system at 21 – the extension was due to still being in school at 18.

The summer when I was 23 two things happened. The Haldol that my mother had been on for many years had stopped working and she ‘ran away from home’; she had put all of her belongings on the front lawn, left the furniture and just took off. Aside from one letter mailed from Northern Ontario there was no word from her. For the rest of the summer I had no idea if she was dead or alive. I also got pregnant. I’d been with that boyfriend for 3 years at that point but he pushed me to have an abortion using a lie. (I found out, after 6 years together, that he’d started looking for his next girlfriend after our 1st year together. After 8 years together, when he found her, he still didn’t tell me.) He also said that I didn’t have his permission to have his child. I dealt with the abortion alone because he didn’t want to talk about it, as well as the disappearance of my mother.

My mother, grandmother and myself. Taken at Christmas before the 'big escape'.

My mother, grandmother and myself. Taken at Christmas before the ‘big escape’.

My mother did finally return. She was found living behind a dumpster in Scarborough at the end of August but wouldn’t tell anyone her name for 3 weeks. My mother spent the rest of her years living in group homes. A life-long smoker, she developed COPD which led to her death.  Every year I’m usually able to successfully ignore Mother’s Day (except for the reminder from well-meaning friends) but not so on the day of her passing, which she unfortunately shares with Michael Jackson.

I’ll omit the rape and date rape in my past, but I will mention my bad relationships. I now see how I’ve had a hand in every one; I allowed men to mistreat me. I didn’t stand up for myself. The police arrested a landlord of mine and that situation happened because I, again, didn’t stand up for myself. I tolerated bad behaviour, thinking being kind and forgiving (turning the other cheek) would make it stop. Men who are bullies don’t ever stop, won’t ever stop, until you make them. There need to be VERY firm boundaries that men are NOT allowed to cross. Actually women too, not just men. We’re not just victimized or bullied sexually. Boundaries are Very, very important.

The fallout from sexual assault/abuse/rape is that the one thing that we’re supposed to have complete ownership of, our bodies, we don’t. I was shown at age 5 or 6 (I just know my know my brother hadn’t been born yet) that my body was not my own. I couldn’t stop anyone from taking what they wanted (and I’ve been shown this as an adult, from men no bigger than me). Respect and love for self is how we set boundaries, how we demand a certain amount of respect from others. When our bodies have been violated, especially at such a young age, there is no foundation to even build this respect on to begin with. We don’t learn respect for our bodies, we don’t learn respect for ourselves. We become people-pleasers, we put others first. This problem persists into adulthood and we can become life-long victims of people who see this weakness in us and exploit it. I never saw this connection until, in my 20’s, I saw an episode of Oprah where she talked about her own rape and this subsequent fallout for victims. Sex, seen as an intimate, loving act between 2 people, is something that may never be felt by a victim of assault. Sex may always just be sex. Intimacy may have to come from other avenues, like trust, affection, protection. And trust, for many of us, may never come at all. Some women become ‘lesbians’ not because they’re gay but because they’ve been too brutalized by men in their lifetime.

My grandparents were the only ones who never lied to me, betrayed me or hurt me. Most others have seen me as fair game.

Despite what men did to me I didn’t ‘evict’ any of them from my life. I should have but I didn’t. My self-esteem still had a long way to go. (Only in the last few months have I started ‘cleaning house’. Better late than never.)

A few months before my mother passed away I had a son.  The father is someone I knew briefly (who I haven’t been able to find since because he told a lot of lies – something men like to do with me). When my son was 4 months old I decided that the best decision for both of us was to relinquish custody. I was 35 but with no support from family or friends, and with welfare looming in our future, I may as well have been a teenager. Raising a baby completely alone is unbelievably scary and daunting, regardless of age.

My mother passed away right after I’d made the decision to give my son up for adoption. Between these 2 situations I couldn’t handle attending her funeral and because of that decision my mother’s death has never quite been real to me. I just concerned myself with my son’s adoption and put my mother out of my mind. She’d had a hard life and I was just happy that her hardship was finally over. Also our relationship improved, since you can’t be angry with a ghost 😉

My sister almost disowned me when she found out I’d decided to relinquish custody of my son (which was the 2nd time she’d almost done this). She did stop speaking to me nearly 3 years ago, for reasons unknown. (She still resides in B.C., as does my father.)

I found a family for my son, through private adoption, and he was adopted at 5 ½ months old. It’s an open adoption and I see him about once a year on his birthday. He just turned 7.

Everything that’s happened in my life I’ve pretty much dealt with on my own; there hasn’t really been any other option. I lived with my grandparents for 5 years before returning to the foster care system at age 14 (my choice; I won’t get into that). I didn’t appreciate it then but those years greatly shaped who I am today. My grandparents were the only people to ever truly accept me for who I am. My mother and my grandparents were the only ones who ever really loved me and now they’re gone. But are the ones we love really gone? I miss them and would give anything to feel their embrace again but somehow it doesn’t feel like they’re…gone. Something is still here with us. How can we come from nothing and return to nothing if the memory of a deceased loved one can spark such strong feelings in us years, even decades, later? How can we still feel such a strong connection to someone who no longer ‘is’? I’ll never believe in this nothingness theory. It just doesn’t hold up for me.

Shortly before I went to go live with my grandparents.

Shortly before I went to go live with my grandparents.

My life hasn’t been easy, and I think it would be safe to say that No one’s life has been easy. We all have our burdens to bear and we all bear those burdens differently. I’ve been taught to be strong from birth, to learn to rely on no one but myself. The funny thing, that I wasn’t prepared for, is that despite the physical, psychological and sexual abuse I’ve received, despite all the lying and betrayal, it’s the adoption that’s been the hardest to deal with. Nothing in life has been as hard as this has been, these past 6 ½ years. Aside from the first year, my visits with my birth son have just been on his birthday and usually only for the length of the party. A brief visit yet I still found that I needed to lessen the pain by paying as much attention to the other children as to my birth son. The love you feel for your child, no matter how infrequently you see them, is staggering. I was never prepared for the experience of this love gushing through my entire body like a brush fire. It’s almost painful. That has surprised me every time. (For his past 3 birthdays I’ve only seen him once; for ½ hour when he turned 5 because I missed his party trying to get there. I won’t go into this further.)

I’d have to say the hardest part of my life was the 3 weeks after signing the adoption papers. In Ontario you have 3 weeks to rescind the adoption. Those were the longest, most excruciating 3 weeks of my life. I Desperately wanted to take my son back but I knew that I couldn’t do that to that family. They’d already fallen in love with him and they were offering him such a good life. And at that point I already cared about them too, and would never want to hurt them that way. I don’t think those feelings have ever been reciprocated but such is life. We need only concern ourselves with our own conduct, not worry about the conduct of others.

As time passes the easiest way to deal with this situation is to put it entirely out of my mind. For chunks of time I try to make myself, to let myself, forget that I had a child (a coping mechanism many birth mothers use). But every single day my stomach says otherwise. I’ll always have this visual reminder. I would dearly love to be a mother again but at 42 I don’t see that happening. Foster mother perhaps?

3 days before my son went to live with his new family.

3 days before my son went to live with his new family. His short-lived ‘puff fish’ phase. I only bought a digital camera 1 week before he left so decent pictures are only from that time frame.

My birth son has fit right in with his adoptive family since day one. He immediately bonded with their other adopted son, his big brother.  The adoptive relationship hasn’t been a smooth one these past 6 ½ years, far from it, but the point wasn’t to pick a family that was a good fit for Me but to pick a family that was a good fit for my Son. And I did just that. My birth son lives a life I could only dream of and that is what I wanted for him.

The things that have made me so strong I wouldn’t wish on anyone. My birth son doesn’t have to be strong like I’ve had to be and that’s the life I want for him.

This movie, Mother and Child, showcases what it’s like for the birth mother and the adopted child, and what hardships both face in a closed adoption. I resonate strongly with this movie. There are 8 parts.

I lived in a shelter for a year and I’ve been out for a year. That was the 4th time I’ve had to give up nearly everything I own (damn expensive lifestyle!!). I’ve also slept on couches at various times in the past few years. School is expensive in more ways than one. I’ve graduated from both college And the school of hard knocks 😛!

Even the strongest of us can still find life hard.  Don’t beat yourself up for feeling despair, we all do at various times. But we always find our way back and you will too. Humans have this unbelievable drive to persevere. You’re not aware of it until you need it, then there it is. (Whoop, there it is! Haha)

As a teenager I was hospitalized 3 times for attempted suicide. As far as I was concerned the last time I was committing suicide, not attempting. I’d heard that 20 sleeping pills would kill you so I took 100. Over the years I’ve begged God to take me many times, but apparently God is more stubborn than I am. I guess I’m here so stay. The one thing we don’t realize is how strong each successive hurdle makes us. We honestly don’t realize how strong we are, we doubt our capacity to deal, to handle. As a baby my mother’s medication was so strong that she’d sleep through my crying so I cried myself to sleep all the time. For food she used to put a box of cookies on a chair; if she slept through my being hungry I could crawl over to the chair, pull myself up and get my own food. This has been a blessing and a curse. I am very strong and very independent, too much so if you ask many people.

I’ve also moved a lot in my life (a few times using only public transit, all by myself). Due to the frequent moves in my youth I don’t feel comfortable staying in one place for long. The required 5-year address list for the Navy Reserves (I didn’t join) was 2 pages long. Someone once told me they knew how it felt to move often….they’d moved 4 times in their life 😒 People see things from where they are, not from where you are. True empathy is rare.

My biological family is big; 3 aunts, 3 uncles and 28 cousins. Due to my mother’s paranoia we didn’t interact with family members much and aside from the years living with my grandparents the rest of my life has been spent estranged from them. I don’t think about it much, that’s just the way it is. I’ve lived most of my life without them. At age 30 I not only found out I pronounce my own name wrong but also why my father’s family had never been part of my life. They’d disowned me when I was 9, when my father tried to get custody of me. When he lost they washed their hands of me…even though they had never been involved in my life to begin with. They’ve only been involved in my sister’s life.

I’d say what’s gotten me through all these years is reading, spending time by myself (truly liking who I am and enjoying my own company) – to center, balance and get away from all the crap – and humour. (In this tweet if you don’t see a disco dancer then think John Travolta. That’s what I see.) Having a dark sense of humour is greatly beneficial. Life is funny in some pretty inappropriate ways. If I could still laugh, sitting in a homeless shelter surrounded by mentally ill people talking to themselves, then I guarantee you can find things to laugh about. Life isn’t that serious, laugh it off 😅

I don’t usually tweet about bird poop, I tweet motivation and wisdom. Check my account out 😊

 

 

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