I’ve been trying for a while now to write another post since my mother passed away at the end of November, but I’ve been struggling with words. Socializing has been hard. It’s painful. It’s heartbreaking. It’s difficult. It’s surreal. A large part of my grief around my mother’s death is that she was bipolar and an alcoholic, and since the day I was born I have felt (literally taken on) her pain. I saw her, and I loved her with every ounce of my being. I worried for her and cried for her. After my parents separated when I was 12, my mother and I lived alone in a small townhome in Jonesborough, TN. Mama was so depressed. She had quit drinking after she got a DUI before I was born, but she was back to her habit of drinking gallons of Livingston Red Rose wine. She took her Trazodone around 8 PM everyday. I met this 13-year-old girl next door who also didn’t have much parental oversight because her mom was a night nurse. She pretty easily convinced me to take my mom’s car after she went to bed to go visit teenage boys, smoke cigarettes, potentially get drunk, and maybe have sex with boys. This plan worked at least a dozen times. I remember thinking it probably wasn’t a good idea to fill up gas right next to the prison, but we did that anyway. I also remember thinking that I was purposely choosing to make bad decisions when I gave the keys to the car to this teenage boy to go get drugs. He stalled out the car trying to take my mom’s Plymouth over 100 on Tennessee back streets. My friend and I ended up walking back to the townhomes still drunk from the night before. We got there after the police had been called. Both of our mothers were crying, and we were both just laughing. When I try to think of my “inner child,” this version of myself comes up frequently. It’s kind of terrifying to think about. My mother never scolded me. Instead, she quit her job (and went off her medication) because she thought she needed to be home for me. While she was a bit misled, she always loved me the best way she knew how to.
I called Mama almost every day starting when I went to college. Sometimes we would go a few days and she would call me because I hadn’t called her in a few days. She would leave me a voicemail every time she called, because she knew I thought they were funny. She would say things like, “Hey, you little rascal! You better call your Mama!” or “Hellooooo Dr. Miller, this is Rebecca Wilson. I guess that makes me the MOTHER of a DOCTOR Miller!” and she ended each with “Love you, bye!” I kept telling her she couldn’t call me Dr. Miller until I got the PhD, which would be many years from now. In her final days, she was so happy. She was elated, even. She shared too much with me about her sex life, and I just listened and was glad for her to have someone to share these things with. She was also manic and had just bought herself a $500 manual typewriter in a catalog. Apparently she was going to type me letters. On my last visit she typed me a note on my laptop. I hadn’t seen her have that much joy in a while. It was adorable. She used to be a medical transcriptionist, and she loved typing. She said she had finally made it in life because she had an office. Her being manic didn’t matter so much because she had survived another psychotic break, resulting in a month and a half stay in a mental health institute in Virginia. I didn’t think she was going to make it; I don’t know that any of us did. When I talked to her on the phone after about a month of being there she told me she was reading up on history, which was an improvement from how my sister and her husband had seen her just a week before when she was having conversations with Barack Obama and Donald Trump. Upon release from the mental health institute, she was required to go to nine new appointments per month. I didn’t know how she was going to do that. She was trying to do too much, stay busy so she didn’t have to think about it. I’ll never know what all “it” consisted of, but I know that she held (and repressed) many painful memories. The last time we talked was two mornings before. She wasn’t feeling well and asked if I could call her the next day. I miss her so much. I don’t know what else there is to say, except that there is so much left unsaid.
I’m going into my second week of classes this semester. Though the thought of finally being DONE WITH REQUIRED COURSEWORK FOREVER sounded very appealing, I made the decision to just take two, instead of three, classes this semester. I also decided to hold off on comprehensive exams for next Spring. So, academic things going on this semester include those two courses (Teaching Sociology and Advanced Research Methods), two incompletes from the Fall semester (~20 pages), a sole-authored manuscript accepted to Journal of Homosexuality with revisions due January 24th, a second-authored manuscript under review with Social Work in Health Care, grading weekly article reviews for four undergraduate classes, and a conference in April. That’s not even counting service work! Many good things have been happening, amidst a lot of grief. My book review was published! My communities have been holding me, and I am so grateful. I’ve finally realized I’m doing too much and am making intentional moves to take care of my mental health. I’m even feeling less guilty about it! I am thankful that I listened to my body a year ago when it was telling me that I really needed to stop drinking. It was one of the best decisions I have ever made for myself. Here’s to many more good decisions! ❤